Over 200 businesses in Cheshire and Warrington have benefited from free skills training this year through a programme to support SMEs to raise productivity and boost business growth by upskilling their staff.
In the last eight months, the Skills Support for the Workforce scheme has provided fully funded training to almost 700 employees in the region, working in organisations across a range of sectors.
The training, which is funded by the European Social Fund, is specifically designed to help SMEs in Cheshire and Warrington upskill their workforce to fill the region’s skills gaps, in a range of areas including manufacturing, public administration, education, communications and health and transport.
The funding was made available to businesses through the Skills Support for the Workforce at the start of the year, with almost £3m remaining for businesses to apply for.
Ebrahim Dockrat, director of Calderdale College, the prime contractor delivering the project, said: “It is hugely encouraging to see what has been achieved in the first phase of this programme and that almost 700 people across the region have had the opportunity to develop their skills.
“To hear how businesses of all types have benefited, from food manufacturers to retailers, highlights not only the diverse business landscape of the region but also how much appetite there is from companies to invest in the skills of their staff to promote growth.
“As this training is funded with European money this is the last project of its kind, the funding is only available until July 2018 and so it’s a case of benefiting whilst businesses still can.”
Not only can training help increase productivity and the services that businesses can offer, it also motivates and engages the workforce and, as a result, improves employee retention.
Research has found that employees that undertake non-compulsory, work-related training do their jobs better and are more satisfied with their work. However, a lack of time and potential costs act as a barrier to accessing training. The Skills Support for the Workforce project is designed to tackle these challenges.
The project is co-financed by the European Union’s European Social Fund and the Education and Skills Funding Agency and is available for SMEs seeking non-compulsory work-based training to support their business growth plan.
Delivered by Calderdale College – one of the country’s largest providers of European Social Fund funded training - through local providers, the training is for businesses based in the Local Enterprise Partnership area, employing fewer than 250 people with an annual turnover of less than £50m.