LEP skills programme supports SMEs

Almost 7,500 people across Leeds City Region have benefitted from a programme to upskill staff and support small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) to grow. The LEP’s skills service has provided support and funding to more than 3,000 businesses to enable them to develop the skills of their employees.

In the first phase of this initiative almost £9 million has been invested to ensure that staff have the skills that businesses need to grow. Funding of almost £4 million has been invested by the LEP, which has been matched by a £5 million financial contribution from employers.

One business to benefit from this support is York-based marketing agency Pick and Mix Marketing which specialises in social media management, advertising and content marketing. They approached the LEP skills service for support with funding towards Chartered Institute of Marketing qualifications through training provider SPA Professional Academy for a new starter and another team member.

Managing Director of Pick and Mix Marketing, Sally Trousdale explained: “Thanks to the funding from the LEP skills service we were able to undertake training to educate and develop marketing knowledge within the team to ensure as a business we are advising clients on the most up-to-date marketing campaigns and opportunities. This has ultimately led to more advanced strategies, it has driven new business and increased the effectiveness of client campaigns and our business overall.”

Businesses across the region have also used the support from the LEP skills service to improve their exporting capability, which is a strategic priority for the LEP. Leeds-based Lussoti are a high-end manufacturer of leather shoes and accessories who wanted to utilise e-commerce techniques to enable them to sell overseas. Although the business only been trading in January 2016, there are already ambitious plans in the works for Lussoti with sights set on increasing stockists, developing a sales team and improving online sales – all with the ultimate aim of selling to international markets as well as increasing sales in the UK.

Through the skills service, the company’s two directors undertook bespoke training courses focusing on selling techniques, operations and marketing, business planning and strategy.

Managing Director of Lussoti, Luke Twigg explains: “This training has helped the brand grow as a whole. We’ve seen increased sales and profits and been able to increase repeat sales which will allow us to scale for growth as we enter new markets. We also now have a cohesive export strategy enabling us to expand into many overseas markets. Through increased social media engagement internationally, we have achieved more overseas sales especially in the French region, and although the market is quite challenging, we are already seeing an increase in profits from this.

“By working with a skills advisor to create a long term training plan for our team, we have been able to identify the most appropriate training for our staff, ensuring it has a real impact on business growth.”

In the year to March 2017, exports in Yorkshire and the Humber increased by 7.6%. To further boost exporting a new peer-to-peer network called exportexchange.co.uk launched last week enabling SME owners to share their experiences and tips for selling overseas.

Roger Marsh OBE, Chair of the LEP, said: “I’m immensely pleased with all that’s been achieved in the first phase of this ambitious programme. To hear how businesses of all types have benefitted, from manufacturers to creative agencies, highlights not only the diverse business landscape of the region but also how much appetite there is from companies to invest in the skills of their staff.”

Cllr Susan Hinchcliffe, Skills lead for the LEP and Leader of Bradford Council, said: “I’m delighted that almost 7,500 employees across the region have had the opportunity to develop their skills. Improving skills is high on our agenda so we need to build on this success. We expect additional funding for skills to become available later this year.  I would urge businesses to get in touch with the team of skills advisors sooner rather than later to ensure they are best placed to apply.”

The LEP skills service supports businesses across the Leeds City Region to identify appropriate training, find training provision and align staff development with overall business plans. To find out more contact the LEP skills service on skills@the-lep.com, 0113 386 1910 or visit www.the-lep.com/skillsservice for more details.