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Collaboration is Key

SIX MONTHS on and a multi-million European Social Fund (ESF) project led by the University of Sunderland is proving to be a vital component in investing in one of the regions greatest economic assets – its people.

Launched in September 2021, North East Workforce Skills is an ESF funded project worth nearly £15 million and is aimed at levelling up workforce skills to support over 17,500 employees across the Tyne and Wear and Northumberland area by September 2023.

The North East Workforce Skills Programme supports employers to access the tools they need to upskill their workforce through the consortium’s wide-ranging offer. Led by the University of Sunderland the consortium of Further and Higher Education providers in the North East includes Access Training Limited, MTC Training, Newcastle College Group, SETA, Code and TDR Training.

Collaboration is at the core, and it is this approach that has attributed to the immense success to date. The programme is on track to make a big impact through the matching and delivery of highly tailored training and development solutions for businesses, from learning basic skills right up to degree level.

Sir David Bell, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive at the University of Sunderland said: “Sunderland is on a phenomenal growth trajectory with regular news of investment and development hitting the media. Driving this growth is a strong appetite for collaboration in the city and a willingness of partners to work together for the greater good. Investing in the workforce of today and tomorrow is key to retaining and developing talent in the area. We are delighted therefore to be leading the ESF North East Workforce Skills Programme and are thrilled with the outcomes to date, with the hope and expectation of more to come.”

Employers can utilise the ESF funding to address CPD requirements within their business up to a maximum of €200,000 over a three-year period if private sector, and with no limit if public sector. Levy paying employers have provided the Match Funding to support the ESF contract, this ensures that the programme can be accessed by all employers.

Companies are increasingly recognising the importance of upskilling their workforce with many already reaping the benefits. Consortium partners have put together an offer for employers that includes a variety of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) and training solutions to support employers to sustain and grow their business.

To date over 50 employers have engaged with the programme including Sodexo, which works in partnership with NUFC to provide match day catering, hospitality and event management at the Newcastle United FC ground.

Rachel Divers, Sales Manager at Sodexo said:  “I work in the hospitality and events sector and the change we have experienced during the pandemic has been phenomenal and any additional learning I can undertake to help navigate this ever-changing landscape is advantageous to me and my workplace. The support from the team in completing paperwork and applications for funding was fantastic and I could not have done this without their help. I am three months into the PG Cert in Leadership and Change course now and find it enjoyable and all while enhancing my education which is priceless.”

Staff from South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust have also been benefitting from the North East Workforce Skills programme through training delivered by MTC. MTC provided Leadership Training, including a Lead a Team Workshop along with 1-1 support and employee Emma Helmn has really enjoyed the approach to learning. Emma Helmn said: “The training was simple to set up and bespoke to my goals and circumstances. Having a mix of industries also allowed for good collaboration and the ability to see things from another point of view. The trainer was very knowledgeable and suggested some other areas to look into following the session. I really liked the idea of the blended learning approach, doing the workshop day in a classroom environment and I am looking forward to the next part of my journey to complete the 1-1 support/assessment within my new role to help further embed the skills learnt.”

Tim Pain Assistant Director – Enterprise & Innovation at University of Sunderland added: “The ESF North East Workforce Skills Programme is committed to upskilling and retaining employed people, to enable them to either take on more responsibility or a promotion, sustaining them within the workforce or moving them on to higher paid employment. In addition to this by funding the training, employers will be able to sustain and grow within their marketplace, which can only benefit the North East economy.”

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