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4,000 SMEs to benefit from £7m to bridge workforce skills gaps

08 Oct 2020
The Growth Company has been awarded a £7m contract to help 4,000 SMEs across Greater Manchester reskill their workforces, supporting the city region’s long-term economic recovery in response to Covid-19.

Funded by the European Social Fund and commissioned by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA), the Skills for Growth SME Skills Support package will be delivered in partnership with the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce (GMCC).

The scheme will support businesses that need to better understand and develop their staff skill sets and business models to ensure they are future-proofed and in a strong position to grow.

Initially, the scheme will target SMEs who are adapting their businesses models to survive the economic impact of the pandemic. These businesses urgently require new technical and vocational skills within their workforces to respond to new opportunities and challenges.

Skills for Growth SME Skills Support will work with 4,000 SMEs across Greater Manchester over the next three years to identify the skills gaps within their teams, supporting them to become more productive and increase turnover. Approximately 17,000 individual skills plans will be developed to help employees maximise their potential and reduce the risk of redundancies.

The project will link individuals with existing and new skills programmes run at a city-region and national level and will also align with other initiatives seeking to boost productivity in the region. It will refer SMEs to Bridge GM, a project to connect employers with young people looking for work experience, and the Greater Manchester Good Employment Charter, which is working to improve employment standards across the city-region.

In addition, Skills for Growth – SME Skills Support will provide critical skills intelligence to the GMCA to help shape and inform future regional and national skills strategies and support requirements for SMEs.

Mark Hughes MBE, Chief Executive of the Growth Company, said: “Ensuring Greater Manchester has a workforce with the right skills for the future is a critical step in unlocking and enabling our city region’s economic growth.

“By working closely with SMEs to identify needs at all levels of their organisation, Skills for Growth – SME Skills Support will help shape the future landscape of skills across the region and beyond.”

Cllr Sean Fielding, GMCA portfolio lead for Employment, Skills and Digital, said: “We’re building a Greater Manchester where our employers have the information, support and tools to shape the skilled and talented workforce they need to thrive.

“Our ambition is for everyone to have the opportunity to get on, from making sure our young people are equipped for life to ensuring our workforce has the right skills to grasp the opportunities on offer across the city-region. SMEs are key to achieving this ambition and this contract will ensure those businesses and their employees have the support to maximise the opportunities available to them.”

Clive Memmott, Chief Executive of Greater Manchester Chambers of Commerce, added: “This is a vitally important opportunity to help make sure that Greater Manchester has the right workforce with the right skills to face the challenges ahead and ensure that, as a city region, our people and businesses can prosper and grow.”

The Growth Company is an award-winning, not-for-profit social enterprise with a mission to enable growth, create jobs and improve lives. We provide individuals and businesses with a wide range of services that improve employment, skills, investment and enterprise for the benefit of all, and have been working in the Greater Manchester city region for more than 30 years.

Skills for Growth – SME Skills Support will run for 30 months until 2023. To find out more, please contact

This project receives funding from the European Social Fund as part of the 2014-2020 European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme in England.

The Department for Work and Pensions is the Managing Authority for the England European Social Fund programme.

Established by the European Union, the European Social Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support skills development, employment and job creation, social inclusion and local community regenerations. For more information visit