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    Our work with Young Enterprise to promote an “export mindset”

    Young Enterprise Hydraulics Online

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    Over the next few months, we’ll be working with Young Enterprise and other Export Champions to develop content for Young Enterprise Start-Up and Company Programmes for universities and schools. Our blend of digital and live content for Young Enterprise participants will highlight the importance of having an “export mindset” in business.

    Hydraulics Online has been working with Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) since 2017, including giving talks for business students, providing student consultancy research opportunities and offering paid internships to students to work with us on particular business challenges.

    As part of our partnership with MMU, Hydraulics Online co-founder Helen Tonks took on the role of business “dragon” to judge the MMU contestants in its 2019-2020 heat of the Young Enterprise Start-Up competition.

    Young Enterprise inspires the next generation of entrepreneurs

    Young Enterprise works directly with young people, teachers, volunteers and influencers to build a successful and sustainable future for all young people.

    It operates a range of entrepreneurship programmes, including Start-Up, which is open to Higher Education and Further Education students and Company Programme, which is open to school age children. Both enable students to gain first-hand experience of the world of work and working as part of a team, to develop the qualities and skills that employers value, and be able to evidence examples of these skills and to explore self-employment and entrepreneurship as possible career pathways.

    Following Helen’s stint as a dragon for the 2019-2020 Young Enterprise Start Up cohort at MMU, she was invited to create a series of videos to inspire the next cohort of aspirational entrepreneurs. Helen said, “It was so inspiring to be asked to support MMU again and to meet with the 2020-2021 programme participants and to then later see that they had been engaging with the content we had developed.”


    Scaling up to encourage more people to adopt an export mindset from day one

    MMU is just one of the dozen or so universities in the North West of England that participate in the Young Enterprise Start Up programme. Given the positive reception of the students to the MMU content, Hydraulics Online is now in talks with Young Enterprise about developing new content to be shared across the North West region focussed on “baking in” an export mindset from day one for the students.

    Helen explained,

    I’m really keen to see how we can scale the reach and impact of the work that I have been doing informally with Manchester Metropolitan University.

    We may be in the minority, but Hydraulics Online has been exporting from the outset and international trade now accounts for around half of our turnover. We simply never considered not exporting. And it is this concept of ‘baking in’ an internationalised mindset that I really want to pursue – so that the next generation are alert to the opportunities, can learn from the experience of real businesses and then take that thinking forward – whether establishing their own business or when joining another’s payroll.

    Hydraulics Online has been named an Export Champion by the UK’s Department for International Trade (DIT) since 2019. By working with the DIT and other Export Champions in the region we aim to produce a series of digital content units for Young Enterprise to use to raise the profile of exporting and show how to get it right (clue: there are often more ways than one!).

    Andy Firr, UK Start Up Lead at Young Enterprise, explains, “We work with partners from many different sectors and introduce the students to a wide variety of experts. Bringing in Hydraulics Online, the DIT and the other Export Champions to whom Helen has introduced us, to create new content about exporting, really fits with our ethos of embedding an enterprise mindset as early as possible. By bringing in the expertise of the Export Champions we can complement each other’s work.”

    Inspiring the next generation… and the next!

    As well as working with more than ten North West universities, Young Enterprise also works with more than 100 schools in the region through its Company Programme.

    Andrew Firr explains, “In the past we’ve run these engagements face-to-face, but over the last eighteen months we’ve produced the content digitally. That content has worked well for us because of its greater reach.

    We’re planning to create a number of videos with the Export Champions that will be available to the students of both programmes. It’s nearly always the first time they’ve set up a business, no matter what age they are – so the message and guidance will be the same for all the students. At the end of this year, we plan to run some live events with the Export Champions, either face-to-face or digitally.”

    This is the first time Young Enterprise is collaborating with Export Champions to develop content for its programmes, so this partnership will be a pilot project. If it is well received, there is scope to extend the scheme on a national basis.

    Benefitting business as well as the student participants

    Embedding an enterprise and export mindset early is great for both the student participants and the wider business community, especially the regional businesses for which the Young Enterprise cohorts may go on to work.

    Helen commented, “As an Export Champion I have regularly contributed to business events to encourage others to begin or progress their exporting journey. But I am aware that it can sometimes appear too complicated or overwhelming for an established business to think about a move into exporting if they are almost having to approach it as a ‘bolt on’ to their previously UK-centric operations.”

    “The big win for us is around the mindset,” emphasises Andrew Firr. “A few of the students will continue their businesses, but most will go into employment. Often, they don’t see markets outside their own market, so it is vital to push that export message. If we embed that at a young age, they take that knowledge and experience into their future employers.”

    As well as benefitting future employers and, ultimately, UK plc, the students get a great deal from these programmes. Andrew Firr states,

    The experience the students gain will give them a tangible benefit they can take to future employers. Plus, they have an opportunity to begin to build a business network of potential future employers. All this will give them an advantage in the graduate market.


    Paul Stowers, Head, North West, Regions – Northern Powerhouse, Department for International Trade concludes,

    Our economic future, and our place in the world, will depend on how good we are at trading internationally and attracting foreign investment. That’s why we want our young people to think globally, grab opportunities and enjoy successful, fun careers putting the UK on the map!

    UNSDG 4 Quality Education

    We’re talking about this work because it’s part of our commitment to playing our small part towards the achievement of United Nations Sustainable Development Goal #4 –  to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.

    Find out more about this here.

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