Grads helping businesses go international
by Meaghan Whelan
Matt Simms, business development manager for MedicLINK, left, and Scott Winters, current intern with MedicLINK through the Export Internship for Trade Graduates program.
A program offered by the Centre for International Business Studies is helping small businesses in Newfoundland and Labrador compete globally with the help of recent graduates from Memorial University and the College of the North Atlantic. The Export Internship for Trade Graduates helps small businesses take advantage of global opportunities by matching them with graduates who have a background or experience in international trade.
Matt Simms graduated with a bachelor of commerce in 2005 and shortly thereafter started as a trade intern with MedicLINK, a small business that specializes in software solutions for optical stores and optometric practices.
“I feel very fortunate to have come onboard with MedicLINK when I did. They were in a period of evolution and I was able to get involved in every area related to business and really make my mark,” Mr. Simms said.
Their Eyesistant program, already in use across Canada, makes routine administrative tasks easier by consolidating reception, patient care, billing and marketing functions into one easy-to-use desktop tool. The company founder, Jonathan Brett, believed that there was an opportunity for expansion into the U.S. market but lacked the time and business support to investigate the possibilities. “I always wanted to expand, but I wasn’t sure of how or when. Matt opened my eyes to other markets and he was able to do the market research to find out exactly what was available,” explained Mr. Brett.
Last spring, Mr. Simms and Mr. Brett participated in a Team Canada Atlantic trade mission to Florida to learn more about the U.S. market and meet potential customers. The trip was a success, leading to an agreement with a 22 store regional chain that is interested in using the Eyesistant program.
This success lead to Mr. Simms being hired as MedicLINK’s business development manager after his internship was complete. He credits the program for opening doors for him. “The export internship is an excellent program for two reasons. It gives employers the chance to expand their business by hiring an intern on a subsidized salary and it gives recent grads a chance to apply their knowledge with the support of the internship program.”
Mr. Brett agreed. “The financial backing is a huge incentive. When you’re running a small business, you can’t afford to make hiring mistakes. This program takes some of the risk out of hiring, and the interns are so motivated and highly trained that they quickly become contributing members of the team.”
Some of the intern’s success can be attributed to the support they receive from the Centre for International Business Studies. According to Nikki Hoskins, the program manager, all of the interns participate in an orientation session before their internships start and they stay in close contact throughout the year. Interns are encouraged to share any problems they encounter, and the program contains a number of elements to help provide support, including a mentoring and training program.
This is the fifth year that the internship program has been offered. To date, 38 interns and companies have benefited from the program and half of the interns have been hired permanently by their sponsoring company.
Scott Winters, who graduated with a bachelor of business administration in 2003, is the newest intern to join the MedicLINK business team. He will continue to research additional markets for the company’s international expansion.
The internship program is an integral part of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency’s Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. The program covers 75 per cent of the intern’s salary and benefits to a maximum of $25,000 for the one-year placement. For an organization to hire a second intern they must create a permanent position for the first, but as Mr. Simms explains, that doesn’t seem to be a problem, “as long as the interns keep driving expansion, we’ll have to keep hiring.”
For more information on the Export Internship for Trade Graduates program, please contact program manager Nikki Hoskins at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit the Internships section of the Centre for International Business Studies’ web site, www.mun.ca/cibs.