Skills for competitive advantage

Michaela Young is a Skills Advisor for the LEP skills service, supporting businesses in North Yorkshire to develop their workforce. Here, she discusses her role and explains how the skills service is supporting businesses by providing help and up to £50,000* funding to train their staff.

Businesses I work with

A great aspect of my job is that it is incredibly varied. My focus is supporting business in North Yorkshire and I have worked with a wide range of companies, from restaurants to biotechnology specialists, accountancy practices to care equipment manufacturers, construction firms to digital marketing specialists. I have successfully supported a number of companies in York and Harrogate, however I would love to work with more in Selby and Craven, who are also eligible for this opportunity. I really encourage businesses in those areas to get in touch to ensure they do not miss out.

The skills-gaps

Through my role I have seen a number of trends emerging. Across the business sectors, I find businesses often struggle to recruit staff with skills in sales, marketing, software coding and engineering. These talents seem to be difficult to find in the City Region, particularly in rural areas in North Yorkshire. To address this, I’m seeing more and more businesses proactively training their trusted staff in-house to build the skill-sets they need. My role is to help with this strategy by explaining the skills support and funding available through the LEP.

So far I have found the most popular courses to be in leadership and management, specific software, professional qualifications, sales and marketing, customer service and other more bespoke solutions.

How it works in practice

We have a phone line and advisors on hand to guide you through the stages. In broad terms, to qualify for support you must employ fewer than 250 staff, with a turnover of less than £35 million and be based within Leeds City Region. The LEP can supply up to 50 per cent of the total cost of the training up to £50,000. However, statutory training is not eligible.

I think the skills funding and support available through the LEP is truly unique. I sometimes find that businesses are worried about the administrative burden of applying for funding, but honestly, the application process is very simple!

The first step for me is to have a conversation with the business and establish that they are eligible. Once I have established eligibility, I meet the company, discuss training and ambitions for the future, and how the training will help develop the business. We complete the applications for you and beyond supplying some information and evidence that the training has been completed, nothing further is required.

Decisions are made quickly too. We have worked hard to ensure a speedy process. Once we have worked with businesses to pull together a completed application, those requesting less than £10,000 are processed every week. Larger applications are processed every month.

I always stress this is one of the most flexible programmes I have worked on, and encourage you to get in touch to establish whether you qualify. This opportunity is time-limited and I wouldn’t want ambitious businesses to miss out.

Types of training undertaken

I’m really passionate about helping people develop their business and hearing about how new abilities are translating into real competitive advantage. One of the businesses to benefit is Harrogate-based Baltzersen’s, a Norwegian-inspired caf´┐Ż that opens as a restaurant called Norse in the evenings. It was awarded funding through the LEP to put staff members through several courses run by the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET).

Baltzersen’s owner Paul Rawlinson said: “I found out about the funding at a Harrogate Chamber of Commerce meeting. I applied and the funding came through within two to three weeks; it was really quick. The training formalised some of the learning we’ve done tasting wines in the restaurant. We all really enjoyed it and we came away with knowledge that puts us probably in the top one per cent of people in the country in terms of wine knowledge.”

Other great companies I have recently worked with include Stage One Creative Services Ltd, a leading provider of stage and entertainment equipment who have undertaken training in strategic and supervisory management training, and a growing construction firm has undertaken CAD training. It is a very motivating and rewarding part of my job when I see the impact our skills grant and support can provide.

Top tips

I encourage you to take a critical look at your business, identify areas where there may be skills gaps, then contact us! The team here are all genuinely passionate about helping you to get the best outcomes for your business.

This fund is time limited so act fast to make your training budget go much, much further.

*For more information on eligibility please click here. Or you can join the conversation on Twitter using #LEPskills.