Free skills training for Yorkshire SMEs

Northallerton High Street

Free skills training for Yorkshire SMEs

Small to medium enterprises in the region are being urged to take advantage of free training that is being offered to help upskill staff, raise productivity, and boost business growth.

Over £1 million has been made available for businesses through the York, North Yorkshire and East Riding Skills Support for the Workforce project, but businesses only have until early next year to apply.

The scheme, which is funded by the European Social Fund, is designed to give SMEs the chance for their staff to gain professional training across a range of skills and sectors.

There are 156,200 people of working age living in East Riding, offering great economic strength and growth potential in industries such as renewable energy, food and agriculture, as well as manufacturing and engineering.

However, some employers have reported that they find it difficult to recruit due to potential employees lacking the right skills and qualifications.

Ebrahim Dockrat, external funding director of Calderdale College, the prime contractor responsible for delivering for the project, explains: “The East Riding economy is relatively diverse but is heavily dependent on small businesses and there are ongoing issues with finding and retaining appropriately skilled workers to support new investment and job creation in the area.

“Based on the region’s specific skills gaps, and continued uncertainty over Brexit affecting business confidence, we have developed a range of flexible and bespoke training plans, designed to help SMEs in the East Riding grow their business.

“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.

Businesses across the region are already benefiting from the training, such as commercial bio-economy consultancy, National Non-Foods Crop Centre (NNFCC), based in York. 

Christine Appleyard, NNFCC office manager, said: “We found the initial IT skills training programmes very useful for our team members and so we plan to send more of the team on these and other programmes.

“As a small business it is vital we support our employees to develop the skills and knowledge needed to ensure the successful operation and ultimately the growth of our business.

“This funding allows us to support training that we may not have otherwise been able to access.

“NNFCC has also been able to access fully funded training in the areas of Excel Intermediate and Advanced skills, Introduction and Marketing, Report Writing and Delegating and Managing Upwards,” added Christine.

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.

“As this training is funded with European money this is the last project of its kind,” Ebrahim added. “This funding is only available until July 2018 and so it’s a case of getting it whilst you still can.”

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 operating in agriculture, including agritech; bio-renewables and bio-economy; food manufacture; construction; engineering; voluntary, community and social enterprise; visitor economy; and health and social care in East Riding.