Nigel Brough: Six reasons Lincolnshire SMEs should be upskilling their workforce

With a fund of up to £6 million available to SMEs in Greater Lincolnshire to upskill their workforce, businesses are being encouraged to take advantage of the free training available from Skills Support for the Workforce.

Upskilling staff can be advantageous for the whole company; as well as motivating and engaging employees, it enables small businesses to increase productivity and the services that they can offer boosting growth.

There are over 500,000 people of working age living in Greater Lincolnshire, offering great economic strength and growth potential in industries such as food and agriculture, as well as manufacturing, engineering and logistics. However, some employers have reported that they find it difficult to recruit due to potential employees lacking qualifications.

According to the Greater Lincolnshire LEP, employers in the area estimate that six per cent of their workforce have no qualifications and in key industries such as agri-food, manufacturing and engineering this rises to up to 10%.

There are so many benefits that come from investing in training and, given that funding is there for companies, now is the time to upskill staff.

Six major benefits that skills training can provide are:

  1. The competitive edge: Training sits alongside management initiatives increasing productivity and enhancing the range of services that a business can offer. It can give SMEs in highly competitive industries the edge over their rivals, helping them to win new business, contracts or clients.
  2. Increased confidence: When employees complete training and gain new qualifications, they have the confidence to take on more responsibility and step up into more challenging or diverse roles within the team. They also work more efficiently, boosting the overall productivity of the business.
  3. Job satisfaction: Research has found that employees who feel encouraged and supported to develop their knowledge and skills not only work more effectively, but are also more satisfied in their jobs. This makes them positive role models for their fellow employees and great ambassadors for the business.
  4. Employee retention: A more fulfilled, motivated and engaged workforce is a more loyal workforce, which means that employees are less likely to look for work elsewhere.
  5. Growth: The knock-on effect of all these benefits is greater potential for a business to grow, not to mention the positive personal growth and development impacts for employees.
  6. Future proof: By up-skilling and training staff, a business is more resilient and better placed to withstand economic turbulence.

A report by the Federation of Small Businesses found that 43 per cent of businesses listed the cost of training as a major challenge and for many SMEs, a lack of time and difficulties meeting the cost of training courses can be a distinct disadvantage.
Nigel adds: “The free training on offer through the Skills Support for the Workforce project has been specifically designed to help overcome these training barriers and reap the rewards.”

Co-financed by the European Union’s European Social Fund and the Education and Skills Funding Agency, Skills Support for the Workforce funding is available to SMEs operating in all sectors, including agriculture, manufacturing, engineering, food and drink, logistics and distribution, tourism and hospitality, low carbon and other fields, helping them to meet the cost of non-compulsory, work-based training to support their business growth plan.

A wide range of flexible training courses are available, specifically designed to help SMEs in Greater Lincolnshire upskill their workforce to fill the region’s skills gaps, in line with their business growth objectives.

SMEs interested in applying for the funding must act quickly as it’s only available until Spring 2018.

The project is led by Calderdale College – one of the country’s largest providers of training offered through the European Social Fund.