A £4.4m boost to bolster skills and help businesses recover from COVID-19 is due to be launched by the South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP).
Two COVID-19 Recovery Funds, made up of the £2.4m COVID-19 Business Support Fund and the £2m Skills COVID-19 Recovery Fund, will shortly be available as part of SELEP’s focus to support businesses and skills in the wake of the pandemic.
SELEP Chair Christian Brodie said: “Our business community and those individuals who are seeking to re-skill must be supported in all ways available to us at this time. We have been working hard to establish these funds which are needed now more than ever.
“Our business community needs all the support it can get after an incredibly tough year, and boosting skills with new training schemes will be a welcome initiative for the people who are seeking to enter new industries or upskill in their careers.”
- The £2 million Skills COVID-19 Fund will have three separate programmes:
- retraining for key sectors recruiting, helping those who lost their jobs during the pandemic and are looking for employment in essential industries;
- retraining for digital roles across all sectors, to ensure residents are equipped for these vital roles; and
- basic digital skills, kit and connectivity, to help individuals currently without connectivity and access or kit.
- The £2.4 million COVID-19 Business Support Fund will also be split into four individual business support programmes, namely:
- supporting pre-starts and start-ups;
- digitising business,
- supporting retail and e-commerce;
- supporting the visitor economy.
SELEP Skills Advisory Panel (SAP) Chair Helen Clements said: “This funding will be a welcome support towards helping address some of the gaps identified within skills and training, particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Most crucially, we will be working hard to help those who lost their jobs during the pandemic by providing upskilling and retraining for key sectors.
“In this new age of virtual job interviews and remote working, digital skills are more important than ever. That’s why we are earmarking a portion of this funding for retraining for digital roles across all sectors, as well as basic digital skills and kit to help the areas in the South East that are currently having to deal with poor connectivity and to reduce the digital gap which has been exacerbated for some communities.”
SELEP’s SME Champion Clive Soper said: “Few industries have suffered more during the COVID-19 pandemic than the visitor and tourism sector, so part of this fund will be used to support the visitor economy by helping businesses in this sector with specialist advice, guidance and small business grants.
“We must also ensure that the South East’s entrepreneurial spirit does not suffer. We must do all we can to help start-ups and ensure that they have the tools in place to grow in spite of the extremely difficult conditions in the market.”
For more information on how to access these funds please visit southeastlep.com/opportunities
SELEP’s Digital Skills Partnership (DSP) is a trailblazing initiative which tackles local digital skills challenges to build thriving and inclusive local economies.
Launched in 2019, one of just six similar national projects to receive Government funding and support, it has gone from strength to strength with partners drawn from across the private, public, voluntary and education sectors.
Its priorities for action in the region involve supporting SMEs, residents, educators and students with digital skills and ensuring these skills meet business recruitment needs.
During lockdown, the DSP partnered with leading online higher education learning platform, Coursera, to provide free, online learning resources to 10,000 users across the South East. Courses included graphic design, business analysis, Python, Java, healthcare, web design, digital marketing and app development, as well as high-demand fields and future leading industries such as IT, artificial intelligence and cloud engineering.
SELEP DSP Co-ordinator, James Wilkinson, said: “This was a really exciting development for the Digital Skills Partnership, and for residents wanting to boost their digital skills. We’re now working with Coursera to highlight key courses, in line with opportunity sectors and regional vacancies, to ensure that registrants understand future career pathways and pick up in-demand skills.”
Last summer, Kit Ahweyevu was appointed Diversity Lead for the DSP. As CEO of MindWeaver, Kit helps tackle the digital skills gap while bringing those from underrepresented, underutilised and underemployed groups into the world of emerging technology.
She said: “Diversity is an essential component of innovation. There is currently a lack of diverse voices in senior leadership positions across the UK’s businesses and across all levels within technology. This is what my work with MindWeaver – and now as Diversity Lead for the South East DSP – is focused on, and I believe that unlocking and enhancing the potential of previously overlooked groups is key to increasing productivity within the UK labour force.
“I am excited to begin my work for the DSP alongside the working group leads to help make the South East’s digital business community a frontrunner for inclusion and diversity.”
Find out more at southeastlep.com/our-delivery/skills/digital-skills-partnership