Teesside University is behind one of just eight projects chosen from across the country by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) to help boost leadership opportunities for small and medium businesses.
Each of the eight projects, which are part of the UK Futures Programme run by UKCES, will trial innovative ways to improve the productivity of small local businesses by boosting their leadership and entrepreneurship skills. The anchor institutions for each project include Chambers of Commerce, universities, colleges, councils, Enterprise Agencies and business schools, in conjunction with local employers.
The Leadership Forge, led by Teesside University, aims to challenge attitudes towards leadership development, which is often not widely valued by smaller businesses.
The project will show these businesses how they can progress by highlighting the correlation between leadership development and business growth and piloting new forms of support through a community of shared learning via workshops, coaching, site visits to large employers, action learning and peer learning sessions to enable SMEs to ‘work on the business, not in the business’.
Laura Woods (pictured above), Teesside University’s director of The Forge, Teesside University’s front door for business, said: “Although there are many small and medium businesses in the region, a high proportion of owners and managers don’t see leadership development as a valid route to business growth, and so fail to take up leadership and innovation opportunities.
“This project will tackle those perceptions by involving local small businesses in shaping an innovative approach to engagement and leadership development, giving them access through their relationship with Teesside University to new solutions and valuable networks.”
Julie Kenny, commissioner at UKCES and founder of Pyronix, a leading small business in the security sector, said: “Small businesses form the backbone of the UK economy. Yet constraints on their time and resources mean they are the least likely to develop the leadership and management skills that will help them grow.
“Owner managers and senior leaders of small companies need to spend their time and money wisely, and see clear benefits from the start.
“The anchor institutions we will be working with have demonstrated a strong understanding of the specific issues that small businesses face in their local community.
“They have also shown that they have the ability to reach out to businesses who often find themselves excluded from national programmes.”
The seven other programmes chosen by UKCES are:
• Micro Firm Leader Development Programme, led by the Causeway Enterprise Agency, Northern Ireland.
• Unleashing Small Business Potential in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, led by Inverness College UHI
• Support Programme for Regional SMEs in Entrepreneurship and Leadership Skills, led by the Regional Learning Partnership, South West & Central Wales.
• CAPTURED, led by Newcastle University
• LEAP (Leadership & Entrepreneurship Advancing Productivity), led by the University of Sunderland
• Doncaster Leadership & Entrepreneurship Academy, led by Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council
• St Helens City Growth Association, led by St Helens Chamber.
Each project represents a joint investment with UKCES, with organisations investing in cash, in-kind, or both, alongside a maximum government contribution of £200,000 per project. The total government contribution is £1.3m.