We’re Celebrating!

We’re in a celebratory mood this month having reached a huge milestone that we are all immensely proud of.

Along with our learning partners, we have now provided fully funded training and development programmes to over 1,000 participants.

When we launched in April 2021, in the midst of the COVID crisis, many people were still working from home and the immediate future for some types of training looked unclear.

But by offering both face to face teaching and online learning, our training solutions, aimed at supporting skills requirements across Devon, have supported over 250 businesses and 1,000 employees in just 16 months!

Our ultimate aim has always been to enable individuals to upskill and help employees to progress in their existing careers or to prepare for a new role.

We have done this via SMART SKILLS, our exciting initiative run on behalf of Plymouth Council, and funded by the European Social Fund.

SMART SKILLS provides comprehensive access to fully funded courses, delivered by experienced learning providers that enhance individual, business, and regional skill sets.

The SMART approach is innovative in that it aims to boost growth and jobs in Europe by enabling each region to identify and develop its own competitive advantages. Through our partnerships we bring together individuals, local authorities, academia, and industry all working towards long-term growth strategies.

By identifying key sectors and regional strengths, the training we offer is devised and delivered with the aim of boosting local development and achievement and the types of businesses who have contacted us to find out more and get involved straddle all industry sectors.

“It has been amazing to see the diversity of companies getting in touch to explore our courses. Over 90% of those we’ve supported are classified as SMEs and employ less than 250 staff, so it has been great to provide fully funded courses to local businesses who may not have access to training without our support.” Sean Gibson, SMART SKILLS Partnership and Engagement Manager.

From the start of the project we’ve partnered with creative and established education providers including Petroc, South Devon College, City College Plymouth, Focus Training Group and the University of Exeter.

All of our partners deliver valuable courses across a wide spectrum of topics and subjects and our collaborations have continued to grow to meet increasing demand with On Course South West joining the team earlier this year.

Why is training and upskilling so important?

Staffing levels, recruitment and employee retention have become key business concerns over the past few years. Through the SMART SKILLS programme we are supporting businesses by helping them to invest in their workforce, improving staff well being, performance, and retention.

1000 participants is an amazing start but there is still so much more we want to do. There are hundreds of organisations across the South West that we know we will be able to help.

“We have helped businesses across the whole of Devon but have had significant interest in the larger cities.  We want to make sure that all areas are supported and so we have been attending events and building awareness in more rural communities. Our aim is to reach even more employers who may be unaware of the support that is available and the benefit that it offers.”  Michael Sharman, Business Skills Adviser for SMART SKILLS.

One particular area of interest for many companies that we identified very early on was the need for more skilled training in Mental Health First Aid across all business sectors.

Accredited training in Mental Health First Aid is now one of our fastest growing and most in-demand courses. At CSW we see better mental health provision in the workplace as a huge part of our programme’s legacy. The ripple effects of employees feeling happier, safer and better supported at work cannot be underestimated and we’re incredibly proud of our role in this movement.

So that we can support the next 1000 participants, the message that we’d like to get out into the business community is that set courses and qualifications are just a small part of what’s on offer.

Many companies who have benefited from the funding available came to us with unique training requirements and by understanding their business we were able to offer a bespoke solution to match their needs.

“I would encourage businesses to have a look at the training packages that we have available and if they don’t see what they’re looking for to get in touch. There is a possibility that we have the delivery experts available to create the type of tailored workshops their company needs.”  Sean Gibson, SMART SKILLS Partnership and Engagement Manager.

The funding we have been allocated means that our SMART SKILLS initiative is due to conclude in 2023 and so we’re urging local, Devon based businesses of all sizes and sectors to get in touch as soon as possible and take up the funding on offer.

“We have just over 12 months remaining to utilise the £3.5million of funding from the European Social Fund.  After 2023, the funding ceases and that’s why we are keen for so many businesses to take advantage. There is a belief that access to this level of funding for training may not be seen again, so now is a great time to find out how SMART SKILLS can bridge the skills gaps in Devon and support economic growth.

To have supported so many people over the past 12 months has been a terrific achievement. It takes time to get a new project off the ground, especially in the midst of a pandemic! With the momentum and interest that we have generated, we’re looking forward to celebrating our 2000th participant in the not-too-distant future.”  Sean Gibson, SMART SKILLS Partnership and Engagement Manager.

If you are an employee or employer looking at upskilling and training opportunities, get in touch with our SMART SKILLS Hub team today. By taking time to understand your needs and your business we’ll be able to identify the courses that match your requirements and partner you with the right learning provider to deliver them.

As an employee, training and upskilling can provide you with valuable new skills, experience and knowledge to enhance your existing role and can also help you to evolve and develop your career.

As an employer and business owner, investing in your workforce is one of the most impactful and powerful statements you can make about valuing your team. You can find out more about the benefits of investing in training here.