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Over 500 businesses in the Black Country have benefited from free skills training this year through Black Country LEP initiatives to help businesses in the region raise productivity and boost business growth, by upskilling their staff.

The LEP secured funding through the European Social Fund and the Education and Skills Funding Agency to deliver two separate programmes: Skills Support for the Workforce and the Black Country Skills Factory.

The latest figures show that over 1,200 employees in the region, working in organisations across a range of sectors, have benefited from the training schemes to date.

Both programmes offer fully funded training designed to address skills needs in the Black Country, specifically in advanced manufacturing, business services, building and construction, health and social care and transport and environmental technologies.

The schemes deliver courses through a network of colleges and local training providers, with Skills Support for the Workforce offering bespoke training planning and a range of courses to suit different business needs and the Black Country Skills Factory offering bite-sized courses, apprenticeships and a two-year degree course.

Funding was made available to businesses through Skills Support for the Workforce, which is being delivered by Calderdale College, at the start of the year, with almost £10m remaining for businesses to apply for until Spring next year.

Also funded by the European Social Fund, the Black Country Skills Factory has £533,672 as part of the 2014-2020 European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme in England.

Ebrahim Dockrat, Director of Calderdale College, the prime contractor delivering The Skills Support for the Workforce project, said:

“It is hugely encouraging to see what has been achieved in the first phase of this programme and that, collectively with the Black Country Skills Factory initiative, over 1,200 people across the region have had the opportunity to develop their skills.

“To hear how businesses of all types have benefited, from manufacturers to engineering companies, highlights the Black Country’s diverse business landscape but also the appetite from companies to invest in the skills of their staff to promote growth.

“As this training is funded with European money these are the last projects of their kind, so it’s a case of applying for funding and benefiting whilst businesses still can.”

Not only can training help increase productivity and the services that businesses can offer, it also motivates and engages the workforce and, as a result, improves employee retention.

Research has found that employees that undertake non-compulsory, work-related training do their jobs better and are more satisfied with their work. However, a lack of time and potential costs act as a barrier to accessing training, challenges which The Skills Support for the Workforce and Black Country Skills Factory projects are designed to tackle.

For more information and to see if your business is eligible for fully-funded training through Skills Support for the Workforce, please visit http://blackcountry.fundingunit.org.uk

For more information about The Black Country Skills Factory and to apply for funded training through the scheme, visit: https://www.blackcountryskillsfactory.co.uk/

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