Almost £10 million is available to small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the Black Country, to fund free training for employees.
But businesses need to act quickly as the funding is only available until next year, which means that the closing date for applications is now just months away.
The funding is on offer through the Skills Support for the Workforce scheme, which was launched last year to help SMEs to upskill their workforce and by doing so, boost productivity and stimulate growth.
The region has a vast local labour resource and world-class engineering skills, with more than three million people of working age living within a 20 mile radius of the Black Country. However, employers have also reported challenges, with a high share of the workforce having no or low skills in certain areas, such as IT and technical skills, which the training is designed to improve.
Research shows that employees who are given the opportunity to complete non-compulsory, work-related training tend to work more effectively and are more satisified in their jobs. Unfortunately, for many SMEs, a lack of time and difficulties meeting the cost of training can act as barriers, preventing them from offering their employees development opportunities.
The Skills Support for the Workforce project is designed to tackle these challenges and has already made it possible for thousands of businesses across the country to upskill their employees. SMEs from a broad range of sectors are eligible to apply for a variety of fully-funded, certified training courses and professional qualifications.
Hannon Brothers are a leading civil engineering and groundwork specialist based in Wolverhampton, who are already benefiting from the training.
Craig Clark, Construction Manager at Hannon Brothers, said: “We decided to participate in the programme as the construction sector is very competitive. We wanted to ensure we had a highly skilled, adaptable workforce, which would increase both productivity and allow us to bid for more work and tenders within the region.
“The initial stages of the process included the completion of a Training Needs Analysis which tailored the programme to suit our needs both currently and in line with our future growth plans.
“The long term effects of this training will be an increased skillset within the team allowing us to bid for more work, to help us to reach our growth ambitions. We would recommend this training to other businesses as it’s a fully-funded service fulfilling the needs of ourselves as an employer and our employees and will benefit the business as a whole going forward.”
The scheme is being delivered by Calderdale College - the country’s largest provider of training offered through the European Social Fund - using locally-based, professional training providers.
Ebrahim Dockrat, External Funding Director of Calderdale College, said: “Not only can training help to increase productivity and the services that businesses can offer, it also motivates and engages the workforce and, as a result, improves employee retention.
“As this training is funded with European money, this is the last project of its kind and it’s very much a case of get it whilst you still can so we’d urge local businesses to get their applications in as soon as possible.”
Co-financed by the European Union’s European Social Fund and the Education and Skills Funding Agency, Skills Support for the Workforce funding is available to SMEs operating in transport technologies, including aerospace and automotive; building technologies and construction; advanced manufacturing, including engineering; logistics; food and drink; environmental technologies and other fields, helping them to meet the cost of non-compulsory, work-based training to support their business growth plan.
For more information about Skills Support for the Workforce and to find out if your business is eligible for fully-funded training, please visit: http://ssw.fundingunit.org.uk/