A new £50m a year fund was launched today by Business Secretary Vince Cable and Skills Minister John Hayes to help businesses develop the skills they need to drive growth.
According to the government, the Growth Investment Fund (GIF) will allow employers to overcome training barriers to growth, paving the way to increased innovation and productivity. The funding could also enable industries to develop new professional standards, or support new or extended National Skills Academies.
“This government understands that to rebalance and grow our economy, we need to tackle the skills shortages that hold companies back,” said Mr Cable.
“Through this fund, we will support employers that take collective action to overcome these blockages to expansion. By putting the employer voice at the heart of the process, we will reward inventive approaches to training that deliver real help to get business moving.”
The GIF’s prospectus outlines three types of projects where its funding can be brought together with investment by employers:
- ‘Best Market Solutions’ which will invest in the best innovative ideas to drive enterprise and remove skills barriers to growth, including through the introduction of new voluntary professional standards and voluntary training levies.
- National Skills Academies: expanding the successful network of National Skills Academies, which already exist in 16 sectors such as Environmental Technology, Railway Engineering and Retail.
- Joint Investment Programme: bringing together employer and public investment in specific training projects which improve business productivity and growth, or address skills gaps and shortages.
The funding is open to proposals from employer organisations such as Sector Skills Councils, professional bodies and trade associations.
Tom Wilson, director of unionlearn, the TUC’s learning and training organisation, commented: “Unions have a vital role in improving workplace training and skills. Union Learning Fund projects have encouraged four out of ten employers to make a financial contribution to union learning activities (the average investment was £23,000).
“However, many more provided contributions in kind, for example equipment, office space and time off for reps and employees. Bombardier Transportation, in the East Midlands, calculated that its in-kind contributions amounted to £80,000 a year. Training is crucial if the UK is to compete in the global economy and the Government is right to encourage companies to improve the skills of their employees.”
(Pictured: Business Secretary Vince Cable)