Free training extended for businesses in Tees Valley to boost skills

Following the successful upskilling of employees at hundreds of businesses in Tees Valley, the Skills Support for the Workforce (SSW) programme has secured a further £3.4m of funding to support employers to empower their staff and turn their business growth plans into reality.

The 50% increase in the contract means businesses and their employees in Tees Valley can take advantage of free skills training until 2023.

Since April 2019, SSW has helped over 2,000 employees and over 600 businesses in the region to successfully fill skills gaps to achieve their business goals, including increasing sales revenue and boosting staff morale to reduce absenteeism. The extra funding also comes at a crucial time for businesses in the region, who may require additional support following the impact of Covid-19.

The SSW programme was developed to upskill employees in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and micro-businesses across the Tees Valley. It is designed to help identify and meet individual businesses’ skills needs by providing fully funded occupational qualifications, training courses and personal development, aimed at increasing productivity and encouraging growth.

In addition to workplace training, SSW offers a range of online training and qualifications to provide maximum flexibility for businesses and employees during normal business operations, supporting employees on furlough and employees at risk of redundancy or recently made redundant.

The training will be delivered by Calderdale College in partnership with the Tees Valley Mayor and Combined Authority, through specialist, local and regional training providers. The programme will include leadership and management training, team working and vocational qualifications and technical skills support, as well as specialised courses such as social media marketing and resilience and recovery in business.


Helen Howland, Head of the Skills Support for the Workforce programme in Tees Valley, said: “Over the last few months, a large number of businesses in the region have found themselves in an uncertain position, as they have had to pause their operations or have seen a reduction in sales interest. However, the Skills Support for the Workforce programme provides these businesses with an opportunity to face their future with confidence.” 

She added: “The programme’s flexibility is its greatest strength, as it allows us to work with businesses to identify their specific challenges, creating a free, personalised training plan that will allow them to rebuild, recover and grow. This funding is vital for not only filling the existing skills gaps within the region, but also helping businesses that have suffered as a result of Covid-19, including those going through restructuring.”

The Skills Support for the Workforce programme will continue to focus on delivering skills training to support the region’s key priority sectors, including: Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering, Digital, Construction, Energy, Business Services, Retail, Life Sciences and the Service Sector.

Tees Valley Mayor, Ben Houchen, said: “The programme’s extension could not have come at a better time. The coronavirus pandemic has created challenges for many businesses across Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool, business owners are doing a lot to adapt to the new normal and one thing that can help is free skills training thanks to the SSW programme.

“By offering free training provided by specialists, we can help our SMEs recover and support their ambitions to grow, as well as stimulate the economic development of the region as a whole. It also helps to give local people the skills they need to succeed in good quality careers right here in the Tees Valley.”

Illustrated Identity, an online store based in Middlesbrough, specialising in designs for clothing, home and gifts, saw significant business growth after its owner, Kim Sandford, took part in the free training.

Kim said: “The skills I learned thanks to the SSW programme have helped me boost sales by 131% on the previous year, with 40% of my items now shipped to America. The guidance and support I had helped my business to unlock growth potential and even better – it was free!”

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.

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