North East firms are set to benefit from a multi-million-pound pot of cash designed to boost skills and employment in the region.  

Gateshead College has secured an additional £6.4m from the European Social Fund (ESF) through the Education Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) to help businesses upskill their workforce and get people into work.

The cash was secured on the back of the successful delivery of Go>Grow, an ESF-funded skills project that was launched in 2016, managed by the college and a partnership of North East training providers.

Part of the money will be earmarked for businesses that want to develop and strengthen their workforce, while the rest of the cash will support individuals who are looking to get back into work, progress in their current job or start their own business. Employers in Northumberland, Tyne & Wear and County Durham will be able to benefit from the fund, which will run until March 2019 and support sectors identified as crucial to the fortunes of the North East economy, such as engineering, digital and health and social care.

The cash boost comes after the college secured £15m of ESF funding to launch the Go>Grow programme in 2016. Since then the money has benefited almost 1,100 employers and 250 start-up enterprises, while 12,000 individuals have gained new skills through additional training. It has helped more than 650 individuals into employment and over 600 people have progressed into further education or training. The fact that Gateshead College achieved these impressive outcomes was a key reason why the organisation was able to secure the most recent award of ESF funding.

In addition, the funding has been used to upskill more than 500 volunteers who are supporting the Great Exhibition of the North, a summer-long celebration of the North of England’s pioneering skills and spirit which kicked off on 22nd June.

Judith Doyle CBE, principal and chief executive at Gateshead College, said: “This is fantastic news for the local business community. The additional funding means we can support the expansion of dozens more companies, helping them to upskill their workforce so they can grow and become more competitive.

“On a wider scale, the fund will help key sectors to create employment opportunities, tackle vital skills shortages and generate more value for the regional economy. I’m also exceptionally proud of my team who have worked tirelessly to oversee the effective delivery of this fund, ensuring it meets the high standards we expect at Gateshead College.”

Gateshead College is rated the number one college in the North East and second in the UK based on the success of its students. Rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted, the college delivers apprenticeships with more than 400 businesses and its apprentices are benchmarked in the top 10% in the country for their achievements.

James Ramsbotham, chief executive of North East England Chamber of Commerce, said: “This funding announcement is great news for Gateshead College and the wider North East business community. The college does some fantastic work with local firms of all sizes, helping them to train and develop their workforce.

“Many of our members have already benefited from Go>Grow and now more companies will be able to take advantage of the additional £6.4m secured for this fund by Gateshead College.” 

Previous beneficiaries of the fund include Newcastle Airport, housing firm Gentoo and Calder’s Kitchen, a specialist Sunderland-based food business which reported an estimated 10% growth in business after taking part in a ‘Boost Your Business’ course. The three-day course, which has helped dozens of companies, is designed to equip individuals and businesses with marketing, sales and business improvement skills and covers a wide range of topics such as understanding social media, using digital media for business and producing digital content for business.

Local tourist attraction Beamish Museum has also benefitted from the Go>Grow funding. Staff undertook training in subjects including Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), Excel and Microsoft Access to support their work on Remaking Beamish, a project designed to boost visitor numbers and create more jobs at the attraction.

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