SPONSORED: Â£17m funding for Skills Bank to boost fortunes of local firms
Big or small, long-established or just starting out, boosting skills is still the best way to help any company grow.
That’s why £17m has been set aside for a Skills Bank to help firms find the perfect course.
Instead of the traditional route - offering a limited number of free courses that partly meet a company’s needs - it asks bosses exactly what they want.
This ‘employer-led’ approach, in which a firm shoulders some of the costs, is having huge benefits.
The scheme is a first in the UK and has been pioneered in Sheffield City Region over the past year.
Peter Norriss, of PwC, the professional services firm operating the Skills Bank, says more than 2,500 people have been approved for training support so far, with a further 10,000 at 600 companies in the pipeline.
The project is changing a culture, he added.
“We want the Skills Bank to be a presence in the mind of employers. We’ve spent a lot of time setting it up and raising awareness.
“But we are trying to change a culture. We are saying, ‘don’t pick training because it’s free, pick training that’s 100 per cent right and what you really need’.
“It’s really taking off and people are increasingly comfortable to invest in skills.
“Rather than going out with a sales message about a course, we talk to people about growing their business. An employer understands the business best. We have a very clear focus on an individual’s growth story and the difference it can make.”
The Skills Bank will pay up to 70 per cent of the costs of a course to business in different sectors of all sizes, even small and micro firms. Peter added: “Other areas of the country are already talking about replicating the Skills Bank. A number of Local Enterprise Partnerships have rung me up. The SCR should get a lot of credit because they fought for their right to do things differently.
“If you improve skills then companies, the economy, wages and social mobility all go up. The impact is huge and cuts across every aspect of life.
“Personally, it’s great being able to help SMEs – the people you are speaking to are people who are going to benefit from the training.”
Skills Bank is funded by the European Social Fund and Growth Funding through the Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership.
CASE STUDY 1: Poplar Farm Developments
Builder turns to Skills Bank for training
Poplar Farm Developments Ltd is a family-run construction business which relies on the whole family to provide finance and skills and has built 15 homes.
The firm, based in North East Derbyshire, has received funding for two training courses through the Skills Bank, with the aim of increasing the quality of work and ensuring employees have the knowledge and skills to exceed client expectations.
The first was a Construction Plant Competence Scheme which has already reaped benefits. This year, some staff will go on a foundation certificate in accounting to further increase in-house skills.
Experience of the SCR Skills Bank
Alex Cooper, business administration manager at Poplar Farm, said: “Overall the process from registration, to application through to completing the training has been very quick and easy.
“Help has been available whenever we needed it and we would recommend the Skills Bank to every employer in the region who is seeking growth and staff development.”
“The training will ensure we can be prepared for future jobs and capitalise on opportunities that arise, while ensuring we have the right staff with the knowledge and experience to keep employees and subcontractors safe on our construction sites.
“Without Skills Bank funding, we would not be in a financial position to carry out the training at this time.
“It would mean sacrificing spend in other areas of the business, but this has allowed us to maximise all of our opportunities for growth.”
CASE STUDY 2: Pinewood Property Lettings
Chesterfield-based Pinewood Property Lettings was established in 2004 and has benefited from digital marketing and management training through the Skills bank.
Stacey Davies-Bowler, founder and managing director, was very keen to train staff because “they are the business’s largest and most important asset.”
He found out about the service through one of the Chesterfield Champions meetings.
Pinewood has had funding approved for a digital marketing course through the Chartered Institute of Marketing and human resources through the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development.
Experience of the SCR Skills Bank
Stacey initially felt “blinded” by the different courses on offer but once a relationship manager got in touch things progressed very smoothly.
He said: “The Skills Bank guided me through every step and were at the end of the phone whenever I needed more guidance.
“They liaised with the training providers for me to ensure that the course was right for us and with the support and guidance from our relationship manager finding the right courses was very easy.
“HR training will allow the business to increase overall performance as there will now be a fully-trained employee with the relevant expertise to help staff.
“Digital marketing will help grow brand awareness and ensure Pinewood Properties is not left behind. The ‘Managing Self’ course will allow the team to understand their strengths and weaknesses so they can work more effectively together and better understand each other – and the better we work together the faster the business will grow.
“The Skills Bank allows employers within the Sheffield City Region to take ownership over the development of their workforce and offers them the opportunity to grow their business by applying for funding.
“Pinewood Properties would recommend the Skills Bank to every small business that requires some sort of training.
“There is a very high chance that they will find a course to suit your needs.
“This is great for the local market and can only help business prosper.”
CASE STUDY THREE: JRG Fitness
JRG Fitness was set up and is run by Jodie Goodall as a sole trader, offering fitness classes and personal training in the Sheffield and Rotherham area.
JRG is aiming to expand to offer family fitness classes and eventually open a gym.
Jodie has received funding for two training courses through the Skills Bank.
She has completed the first, a certificate in personal training, and is already starting to see the benefits.
In a few months’ she will complete a course on exercise and physical activity for children, to allow her to target a new market and promote the idea of family fitness.
Experience of the SCR Skills Bank
Jodie Goodall said: “I registered online which was very quick, easy and simple. My experience was a successful one because I was given full support throughout the process by the team. I’d recommend the service to everyone.”
The Skills Bank has a team of relationship managers and brokers. Each employer is allocated a team member who supports them from registering on the website to submitting the application.
Jodie added: “When completing the application, I got in touch directly with a Skills Bank team member who was really helpful and provided great advice. Having that support made the process a lot easier and led to my successful applications.”
Impact on JRG Fitness
The impact of this training has already been positive.
Jodie added: “The training has allowed me to bring in new techniques and skills to my classes, improving my service and attracting new clients. The Skills Bank not only aims for business growth, but also personal development in employees.
“I now feel I have the expertise and confidence to deliver a service that exceeds client expectations. It has helped me to expand my business and teach a greater variety of people, helping me to work towards my goal of opening my own gym. This will enable me to create more jobs in the region and contribute to the economic growth in the area.”
CASE STUDY FOUR: Burngreave Building Company
Burngreave Building Company, based in Sheffield, is just one of the many businesses that have already applied for funding with the Skills Bank and are now seeing the benefits of training courses.
The company is a building, roofing and maintenance contractor and has grown from six to 70 employees in 15 years after deciding to expand into commercial property, including universities and housing associations.
Director Gary Adshead said: “We are now working extremely hard to expand the workforce to over 100. The partnership with the Skills Bank will ultimately help us achieve this goal.”
Burngreave Building Company has benefited from two courses - a site supervisor’s training scheme and first aid training - and has started to see the benefits in terms of business growth and upskilling the workforce.
In addition, a funding application for asbestos training has now been approved, which will allow staff to complete testing on site, increasing efficiency and profits.
Experience of the Sheffield City Region Skills Bank
Once Gary was registered on the website he was assigned a broker who came out to visit him.
Gary said: “The broker came down, showed me how to put a plan together and what skills I needed.
“We went through the whole deal and put a package together – it was absolutely amazing.
“The Skills Bank empowers employees to take ownership over developing the skills and expertise in their business. The flexibility means you can choose what you want to do, when you want to do it and how many people you want to put through it.”
Impact on Burngreave Building Company
Malcolm Corbett, contracts manager at Burngreave Building Company, explained how the training has helped him to develop professionally and grow the business.
“Skills Bank training has helped progress my career, learning more about things I probably wouldn’t have previously. Learning the skills for the environmental running on sites have developed my career as a contract manager and helped Burngreave to win more contracts. First aid is of paramount importance to every company - if anything does happen on site you can be there to deal with it.”