From education to employment

The Skills Access Hub project in the D2N2 LEP area


This call is primarily seeking applicants to develop a bespoke local Skills Access Hub as a central pillar of business support within the D2N2 LEP Area, implementing an effective skills support infrastructure within a single, coordinated, strategic framework.

The call will also pilot initiatives to enhance the role of employers in the co design and co delivery of skills provision particularly in high growth sectors which enhance career and qualification pathways and escalators.

The Skills Access Hub will support our businesses to access the skills they need for productivity growth through establishing strong arrangements with the D2N2 Growth Hub, supporting the development of enhanced leadership and management skills in SME’s, developing skills to adapt to digitalisation of the workplace, better engagement with the knowledge and assets in our higher and further educational institutions and increased take up of apprenticeships, particularly at higher and graduate levels.

Feedback from D2N2 SME’s shows that the current skills and training landscape is confused.

To implement an effective skills support infrastructure, the D2N2 LEP aims to deliver business facing skills solutions to SME’s within a single, coordinated, strategic framework and has identified the development of a bespoke local Skills Access Hub as an important component of the skills landscape.

The Skills Access Hub will ensure a clear path to skills provision for employers in the D2N2 LEP Area. The service will;

  • Provide employers and individuals with a first stop access point for skills support and advice, including how they will receive referrals from the D2N2 Growth Hub, publicity campaigns and other partner organisations;

  • Meet the needs of individual employers or groups of employers through Operational Needs Analysis and Training Needs Analysis, and work closely with the D2N2 Growth Hub to complement the work of Business Advisers;

  • Work to develop an integrated skills support system working with FE Colleges, Private Skills Providers, Universities, other local partners and stakeholders to widen participation and engage employers to enhance business performance;

  • Support employers to identify opportunities for succession planning and workforce development to enable employees to move into higher skilled jobs within the business;

  • Secure added value and efficiency for the employer through access to relevant funding support that is appropriate to meet their skills needs;

  • Gather and promote LMI to help improve careers advice and information;

  • Deliver a brokerage service providing information and direct support to SMEs on how to access skills, and qualification support / provision;

  • Provide a coordination function for other ESF employer led skills activity;

  • Provide a focus on businesses not already engaged in skills development;

  • Ensure strong partnership working with the D2N2 Growth Hub and the national apprenticeship agenda;

  • Pilot initiatives to enhance the role of employers in the co design and co-delivery of skills provision particularly in high growth sectors which enhance career and qualification pathways and escalators.

Strategic Alignment with the D2N2 Growth Hub

The D2N2 Business Growth Hub draws business support activity together through a range of services delivered by professional business advisers providing bespoke diagnostic and growth packages for employers. Its aim is to simplify the business support offer of many local and national partners to help businesses more easily find the right support.

Applicants wishing to deliver the D2N2 Skills Access Hub should demonstrate how their proposal will relate to the D2N2 Growth Hub.

The Skills Access Hub will align with the D2N2 Growth Hub and develop joint management processes by: –

  • close working with the Growth Hub complement of Business Advisers;

  • receiving/providing business referrals;

  • use and development of the Growth Hub CRM system, adhering to the rules and requirements of the Growth Hub and the statutory data regulations relating to data protection, sharing and ownership;

  • open and regular communication with the D2N2 Growth Hub provider;

  • establish partnership arrangements with ERDF funded programmes aimed at supporting businesses as well as other ESF and mainstream funded programmes aimed at delivering business development and skills-based programmes. This will include both current and emerging projects.

The outputs of the D2N2 Skills Access Hub should include: –

  • individuals gaining skills and qualifications relevant to the labour market;

  • increased Apprenticeship opportunities, Traineeships, work experience, internships, work placements and graduate placements (especially the number of SMEs engaged);

  • associated activities which link employers to sources of recruitment, training and skills provision; and

  • co designed and co delivered skills approaches which enhance career and qualification pathways and escalators.

The D2N2 Priority Sectors

The D2N2 Strategic Economic Plan identifies 11 priority sectors within which there are 3 innovation-led sectors which stand out as having a winning combination of high-specialism, high-gross value added, and high-growth prospects, as well as being well-connected to D2N2’s knowledge base and in a good position to exploit opportunities in the Industrial Strategy through Sector Deals: They are:

• Transport Equipment Manufacturing

• Food & Drink Manufacturing

• Life Sciences

There are a further 8 sectors, which are important to the economy for different reasons (see www.d2n2lep.og/sep) They are:

• Creative and Digital

• Visitor Economy

• Logistics and E-Commerce

• Construction

• Extractive Industries

• Retail

• Health and Social Care

• Profession and Business Services

The D2N2 Core Delivery Principles.

The D2N2 ESIF subcommittee have agreed a set of Core Delivery Principles that define how it considers a good ESF project should operate. In particular, D2N2 wants to get maximum benefit for the economy from its ESF through fewer, larger projects of impact and scale with funded projects offering complementary and co-ordinated support. Therefore, we would encourage applications with a high impact for the economy, perhaps encompassing a number of activities or clearly aligned with other complimentary delivery. D2N2 LEP would wish to see employers from across the D2N2 area, in urban and rural areas benefit from access to services identified in this call specification.

Applicants should note that a complementary call has been issued under Priority 2.2, the D2N2 Careers and Employability Hub. Applicants are encouraged to consider opportunities for integration of activity.

Activities should be focused on support to SME organisations as the primary target audience, however applicants should also provide information in their Indicator Annex on the total number of participants expected to benefit from the project as a consequence of the ESF project support to SME organisations. Performance of the ESF Project(s) will then include monitoring against the individual participant target (ESF Output Target O1) as well as the relevant SME Output and Result targets

For more information, download the call specification.


The project must cover the D2N2 LEP area.


Approximately £2,400,000 of ESF is available.


Full application deadline: 01 August 2019

Completion date

Projects must be completed no later than 3 years and 6 months after the proposed project start date, however the ESF Managing Authority reserves the right to vary the maximum duration in exceptional circumstances. All ESF Projects must be completed by 31st December 2023. Project costs cannot be incurred beyond this date.

Published 9 May 2019
Last updated 6 August 2019 + show all updates

  1. The Skills Access Hub project call in the D2N2 LEP area (OC08S19P1393) is now closed.
  2. First published.

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