New IOE and IT collaboration aims to equip SMEs with digital trade skills

Tue 14 Feb 2023
Posted by: Richard Cree
IOE News

Kevin Shakespeare at signing of new partnership

The Institute of Export & International Trade (IOE&IT) and The Centre for Finance, Technology and Entrepreneurship (CFTE) have launched a new digital trade training course to support small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). 

IOE&IT is the official education partner for the International Chamber of Commerce’s Centre for Digital Trade and Innovation (C4DTI), housed within Teeside University, which is running the new Digital Trade Transformation Programme for SMEs.

The vital role of SMEs

SMEs represent almost 90% of all businesses worldwide and account for more than 50% of employment. But many remain underpowered in terms of digital infrastructure and thus underprepared for the increasingly digital world of global trade.

As trade digitalisation speeds up, buyers, sellers, and intermediaries are relying more than ever on technologies to trade. Kevin Shakespeare, director of strategic projects and international development at IOE&IT, says it’s crucial that SMEs have access to the education and training they need to participate in this digital economy.

“Educating and upskilling SMEs on the developments in the digitalization of trade is essential to ensuring businesses can maximize their capabilities in international markets. IOE&IT, CFTE and our partners have designed this course to help businesses along their digitalization journey.

“It will turn concepts into reality and empower SMEs to build capabilities in areas such as customs, logistics and fintech in the process. This course will play a pivotal role in introducing new concepts on how to trade confidently and compliantly across the globe in a digital age.”

The increasing need for digital training

Tram Anh Nguyen, co-founder at CFTE, confirms there is a crucial need for education so SMEs can build the skills necessary to transform them from local SMEs into global scaleups operating in a digital economy.

“CTFE and our partners are working to develop and deliver a complete educational programme to help businesses along their digitalisation journey. The course is designed to provide education that guides and builds foundational digital skill capabilities for SMEs and other stakeholders new or unfamiliar with digital trade, so they can participate in ‘end to end’ digital trade. We’re hopeful that it can support the whole ecosystem.”

The course will focus on building SME digital capabilities, supporting supply chain resilience, easing access to export information, enhancing financing mechanisms, investing in digital infrastructure, simplifying trade processes and developing a data governance and cybersecurity framework.

It is aimed at SMEs wanting to engage in digital trade and ecommerce and those wanting to increase exports and imports and participate in international supply chains. It is also open to innovators or new businesses entering new markets looking to upskill to a new set of digital skills, as well as to stakeholders or businesses in emerging markets requiring digital capabilities.

Bridging the digital divide

Professor Lisa Short is the CFTE’s programme director, a member of the C4DTI Legal Advisory Council and member of the UK Trade and Public Policy (TaPP) Network. She says that unless businesspeople understand digital trade, they can’t fully participate.

“The vast majority of SMEs have a digital literacy divide preventing them understanding the potential of international markets and peer-to-peer trade. There have been many free trade agreements signed in recent years, but without training and processes to make trade easier, they exclude over 90% of the market.”

For his part, professor Michael Short of Teesside University, a member of the UK Trade and Public Policy (TaPP) network, adds that effective end-to-end, cross-border digital trade requires an alignment of technology and policy frameworks.

“It is important that the end users – the buyers and sellers – have access to the right training and educational resources to participate effectively. The launch of this new Digital Trade Transformation Programme, aimed at SMEs, will help to ensure these training needs are met.”

Nick Davies, director for the ICC Centre for Digital Trade & Innovation (C4DTI), says this course is essential to the C4DTI’s core mission of accelerating the digitalisation of UK trade,

“Experience shows that the benefits of digital trade internationally will only be fully realised in the SME sector… if any digital system is easily accessible to and understood by those at the coal face, managing transactions and supply chains. The C4DTI is very happy to join IOE&IT in supporting this initiative. Working together, there’s a good opportunity for all of us to complement and leverage the work of each other.”