Businesses across the region will be given support to identify their skills needs and access employee training to help their businesses to grow under a new £3m programme.
The new Skills for Growth Programme is the latest support launched by Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen to help companies deal with the impact of the coronavirus and secure their future.
It follows initiatives such as Buy Local Tees Valley, the Welcome Back Fund, Back to Business Fund and the Emergency Apprenticeship Fund.
Delivered in collaboration with Teesside University Business School, it aims to help small and medium-sized businesses with fewer than 250 employees to identify skills gaps and provide training so companies can grow and thrive.
As part of the programme, these businesses can access funded support from an expert in helping businesses boost the skills of their workforce.
They will help bosses find any skills gaps their company has now or may have in years to come.
Skills advisors will work to understand the unique training needs of each business and take them through the training and support available locally, before helping them tap into specialist support to upskill their workforce.
This training can be provided to employees who are continuing to work throughout the coronavirus pandemic and, under government guidelines, furloughed employees are eligible to still undertake training schemes, giving them an opportunity to learn and develop news skills while not at work.
Mayor Houchen said: “Small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy and, in these difficult times, I’ve made it a priority to support them through the coronavirus pandemic so that when we get through it they can come back stronger and more productive.
“I’ve already provided a £1m scheme to support to our pubs, bars and restaurants to make sure they are Covid-secure through the Welcome Back Fund, supported the hospitality and leisure sectors access professional services with our Back to Business Fund and helped safeguard over 100 apprenticeships with an Emergency Apprenticeship Fund so that our young people just starting out on their careers do not see their future prospects hampered by this horrible virus.
“Now this new programme will make sure firms across Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool can respond to business opportunities by identifying skills gaps and helping their workers to enhance their existing skills and learn new ones.
“This gives local people real, practical qualifications and professional development to help them advance in their career, and their employers to grow their business.
“Also, at this time, training can give furloughed workers a sense of purpose and drive, contributing to their mental wellbeing while, at the same time, helping them progress.
“I’d urge any business that feels that it doesn’t have access to the skills it needs and wants to help build a stronger, more skilled, workforce to speak to one of our team who will walk you through the whole process.”
This joint initiative with Teesside University Business School will also take a proactive research approach to shape and inform future training and development needs of SMEs to be able to more closely meet their ambitions to grow.
Warren Harrison, acting dean at Teesside University, said: “Once again, we’re very proud to be working together with the Tees Valley Combined Authority to find solutions to enable businesses to meet their potential.
“As an anchor institution for the region, collaborating to help the economy grow is central to Teesside University’s mission and Teesside University Business School has an established track record of working together with businesses to find solutions to overcome the challenges they might face.
“For this project, we will be carrying out research into identifying the skills needs of key Tees Valley sectors and work in partnership with Tees Valley Combined Authority to provide intelligence to the skills advisors delivering support to businesses and provide Tees Valley educational providers with long term sector skills roadmaps to ensure supply meets demand.”
The programme, supported by £1.9m of ESF funding, will also complement the Teesworks Skills Academy, which is helping identify the skills that businesses coming to the UK’s largest industrial zone will need, helping local people to gain the expertise they need to take advantage of the jobs being created there.
One of the first companies set to take advantage of the Skills for Growth Programme will be Teesside International Airport, to support long-term planning to increase the number of trained ground crew later in the year.
They will be needed to support the customer service requirements coming from extra domestic flights that have been secured via Loganair and Eastern Airways, plus an increased summer schedule with Balkan Holidays, JetsGo Holidays and its new low-cost carrier Ryanair.