An examination of Vince Cable’s £10m pledge to engineering SMEs

Business Secretary Vince Cable announced £30m of match funding for businesses to design and deliver innovative skills training last week, a third of which will be targeted at small businesses. 

A spokeswoman from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said: “The fund will support training activity needed to address skills shortages facing their business, for learners 19 and over, that is not, or cannot be, funded through mainstream funding channels.”

This includes career progression or conversion training, for examples, helping employees adapt to new technologies or business procedures, supporting mid-career returners and opportunities for employees to achieve chartered status. However, funding of first and post-graduate degrees, apprenticeships and traineeships programmes is not in the scope of this fund.

“We want to encourage any small employer working in the engineering sector to consider how they could use the funding to equip their employees with the skills that will allow their business to grow,” said the spokeswoman. 

BIS is working to open the fund for applications in the next few weeks and it will remain open until March 2015 or funds are exhausted. The department is promoting the scheme to SMEs by working with the engineering community and Local Enterprise Partnerships.

The scheme forms part of the government’s Employer Ownership fund, which enables employers to design training projects that can address skills shortages that are holding back their business by providing 50 per cent match funding to employers.

Employers wanting to find out more about how they can apply for Employer Ownership funding should contact BIS.

South West Water was confirmed as the first company to be granted match funding as part of the initiative, with £250,000 invested in “developing the skills needed to replenish an ageing workforce,” according to the announcement. 

No SMEs have yet been confirmed as taking part as the application process has not yet opened, however, the department has already received a “lot of interest in the offer” ahead of the opening date. 

Speaking about the new fund Business Secretary Vince Cable said: “Engineering is central to supporting Britain’s economic growth and maintaining a competitive edge. To make sure this continues we must increase the supply of highly skilled and talented engineers.

“That’s why we’ve introduced the Employer Ownership Fund which, through match-funding, supports employers to deliver the skills and training they need for their workforce.”

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