The Skills Support for the Workforce (SSW) Programme is celebrating having upskilled a total of 838 businesses and 2,961 employees across Tees Valley since it began in April 2019.
The programme has been extremely successful since its launch and received an additional £3.4m of funding in March 2020, meaning businesses can now take advantage of the free training until 2023.
The 50% contract increase came at a crucial time for many businesses who were having to respond to challenges caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Between March 2020 and March 2021, 310 businesses and 1,111 individuals have been able to upskill staff through the free training, helping them to build business resilience, support staff at risk of redundancy and identify alternative revenue streams.
Since taking the training, 81% of business owners expect to see increased turnover, while 60% have said that they expect to reach new markets.
The SSW Programme is developed to upskill employees in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and micro-businesses across the Tees Valley region. By identifying business’s individual skills needs, it helps to increase productivity and encourage growth through providing fully-funded occupational qualifications, training courses and personal development support.
In addition to workplace training, SSW also offers a range of online training and qualifications, so that training can be delivered in a way that suits the business.
The training is delivered by Calderdale College in partnership with the Tees Valley Mayor and Combined Authority and specialist local and regional training providers.
Helen Howland, Head of the Skills Support for the Workforce Programme in Tees Valley, said: “We know first-hand how difficult the past year has been for many SMEs, so to have provided training to over 300 businesses across the region at no cost to themselves, to help them build resilience, stay afloat, and even grow and expand, is fantastic.
“The programme’s flexibility is its biggest strength, which has been especially important in this last year, and it’s meant we have been able to adapt courses to be taught online to combat social distancing measures and the increase in working from home. We’ve also been quick to react to what businesses need, which has included introducing a redundancy support package to help employers to improve their teams’ future career opportunities by developing existing skills or re-training to start a new career path.”
She added: “By offering free skills training, we can not only provide a much-needed boost to individual businesses and their employees, but also help stimulate the economic recovery of the region as a whole.”
Tees Valley Mayor, Ben Houchen, said: “As restrictions lift and businesses begin to fully reopen, it’s gratifying to know that training from SSW has helped business owners and their staff to feel more confident and prepared for their return to normality.
“It’s been a particularly tough time for many employees’ mental health, but skills training can really help them to feel confident in their roles and be prepared for any challenges that come their way. Thanks to programmes such as SSW, businesses across the region can now face their future head on, secure in the knowledge that they have the tools they need to succeed.”
The SSW programme is co-financed by the European Social Fund (ESF) – an EU established fund to help local areas stimulate economic development through skills and job creation. It includes leadership and management training, team working and vocational qualifications and technical skills support, as well as specialised courses across the region’s key priority sectors, including: Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering, Digital, Construction, Energy, Business Services, Retail, Life Sciences and the Service Sector.
For more information and to see if your business is eligible for fully funded training, please visit: https://ssw.fundingunit.org.uk/areas/tees-valley/.