BIS launches £50m Growth and Innovation Fund

Business secretary Vince Cable and minister for skills John Hayes have launched a £50m-a-year fund to help businesses “develop the skills they need to drive growth”. But is this really the most efficient use of funds?

The Department for Business thinks so. In partnership with private businesses and business groups, the Growth and Innovation Fund will invest in new training for firms to overcome barriers to growth within their own sectors.

The funding could deliver new training to boost productivity, enable industries to set up new professional standards, or support or extend National Skills Academies, the Department for Business (BIS) says.

“We need to tackle the skills shortages that hold companies back,” says Vince 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.”

BIS will invest up to £50m per year in partnership with businesses, whose investment alongside Government could deliver a total of up £100m a year.

The Growth and Innovation Fund will be delivered in partnership by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) and the Skills Funding Agency (SFA), and invites proposals from employer organisations, professional bodies and trade associations.

The prospectus – published this morning – outlines three types of project where GIF funding and employer investment can be brought together:

  • “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.
“Government investment in skills works best for individuals and communities when it responds directly to employers’ needs,” adds John Hayes, the minister for skills.

While the premise of the Growth and Innovation Fund seems fair – after all, giving employers control of their own destinies is a good thing in our books – is this type of programme really the most efficient use of funds today?

Training is an important part of business growth, but are there not other priorities that must be tackled beforehand? What are your views?

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