£1.7m skills boost for SMEs

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Small to medium-sized enterprises across York, North Yorkshire and the East Riding are being urged to take advantage of free training through a skills fund with has been boosted by a £1.7m cash injection.

The fund, accessible through the Skills Support for the Workforce (SSW) project and co-financed by the European Social Fund, will give SMEs the opportunity to offer their employees professional training in a range of skills and across a variety of sectors.

Cat Smith, regional development manager of the SSW project in North and East Yorkshire, said: “The project has already made a significant impact in the region, having helped 829 businesses and 2701 employees gain new skills since the programme launched 18 months ago.

“Securing an additional £1.7m funding means we will be able to reach and support even more businesses in the region, helping stimulate business growth and allowing employees to progress in their jobs all by giving businesses the opportunity to upskill employees through free training and improve productivity.”

The new funding is an extension of the SSW programme, which has been running across the region since November 2016.

Working with the York, North Yorkshire and East Riding Enterprise Partnership to close the area’s skills gaps, SSW has courses in basic employability skills as well as specific courses across the LEP’s priority sectors: agriculture, voluntary, community and social enterprise, construction, bio renewables, health and social care, food manufacture, visitor economy and engineering.

Peter Johnson, funding manager at the York, North Yorkshire, East Riding Enterprise Partnership, said: “We want a local workforce that is constantly developing new skills, helping to not only grow our area’s businesses but also to create fulfilling careers for those who work here.

“A growing economy depends on businesses having people with the right skills in the right jobs at the right time.

“We know that businesses that invest in training outperform those that do not. Likewise people with better skills are more likely to be employed and earn more.

“We know that businesses across a range of sectors in the region are facing barriers to growth. One of the main challenges for employers is their employees not having the right skills to support business growth and this is where the Skills Support for the Workforce programme can help support them.”

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 plans. The courses are delivered by a network of local training providers in partnership with Calderdale College, which oversees the delivery of the programme.

“As this training is funded with European money this is the last project of its kind,” added Smith. “This funding is only available until March 2019 and so it’s a case of taking advantage while it’s still available.”