Northern Ireland a Gateway to Europe for Canadian Business

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Byline: Deborah Dundas

One of the reasons Northern Ireland's economy continues to grow faster than its United Kingdom counterparts may be its continued efforts to look beyond its own borders for trade and training experience. DEBORAH DUNDAS reports from Canada on one company that's been fostering an international approach among businesses and young people for almost 15 years

FOR young people, international experience listed on their CV can put them head and shoulders above their counterparts when it comes to applying for a job.

For businesses, international contacts can help them grow and expand their markets, creating those jobs young people want.

Since 1988 Bill Jermyn, an expat Irishman now living in Canada, has been bridging the two worlds, looking for new opportunities for Northern Ireland business, and helping young people gain the experience they need to be competitive.

In 1984 Jermyn was posted as the Trade Commissioner for the Irish Trade Board to Toronto, Ontario, on a four-year contract.

His job was to promote trade ties between Ireland and Canada and look for opportunities for businesses.

"When it came time to leave," he says, "my wife and children were very happy here. So we decided to stay.

"It was also time for me to move onto something new."

He established William Jermyn Associates in order to pursue strategic market research.

Despite the fact that he had been acting for the Republic of Ireland, he believed there was a strong opportunity to strategically market Northern Ireland companies in Canada and vice-versa.

"At the time I knew there were some strong, indigenous small and medium- sized enterprises (SME's) in Northern Ireland."

Through his new company, he says, "I was consulting with them on an individual basis to move into the Canadian market.

"Around the same time, I became involved in training programmes in North America where marketing graduates from the University of Ulster and Queen's were sponsored to explore opportunities and help companies export into the North American market.

"They'd operate from their apartments in Toronto or my offices, representing the company here in Canada."

Jermyn's role was to act as the interface between the companies and the young people.

It was that programme, he says, which acted as the precursor to the Explorers programme funded by the Training and Employment Agency. Another programme Bill Jermyn was involved with was sponsored by LEDU.

The idea was to give twelve to thirteen companies a year the benefit of project consultants in order to pursue overseas markets.

"Some of the projects were taken on by Jermyn. …