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Skills for Growth – SME Support programme helps more than 1,600 Greater Manchester businesses in first 18 months


More than 1,600 Greater Manchester businesses and 2,500 people have been helped in the first 18 months of a programme looking to help businesses across the city-region to upskill and re-skill their employees.


GC Business Growth Hub in partnership with Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce launched Skills for Growth – SME Support in October 2020 after receiving funding from Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) as part of its three-year Skills for Growth programme, funded through the European Social Fund.


The fully funded business support programme is designed to help Greater Manchester SME’s achieve their growth ambitions through workforce development.


Since its inception, Skills for Growth – SME Support has already supported 1,663 businesses and 2,578 individuals to undertake training and development across a range of disciplines including leadership and management, sales and marketing, IT and ecommerce and social care.


Firms accepted on the programme benefit from up to six months support, working alongside a dedicated Skills Coach, who provides an in-depth business diagnostic and workforce development plan tailored to achieve the business’ growth ambitions as well as being further supported to create personal employee development plans and help in finding suitable training courses.


Alongside this, business leaders can also access specialist support through apprenticeship and health and wellbeing advisors.


The programme has also helped 112 people to embark on an apprenticeship and a further 626 businesses have been referred for health and wellbeing support, helping them to understand the personal needs of their employees and tackle the productivity challenges that come with having a disengaged and disconnected workforce.


Councillor Bev Craig, Greater Manchester’s lead for Work, Skills, Education, Apprenticeships and Digital said: “We know that there are many inspiring start-ups, innovators and businesses across the city-region doing exciting things.


“The Skills for Growth programme is committed to supporting Greater Manchester’s entrepreneurs to develop their businesses through fully-funded training opportunities and it’s thanks to the specialist and bespoke guidance provided by SME Support that so many businesses have been able to make tangible changes and reap the benefits.


“This truly-employer led programme responds to the needs of businesses by plugging skills gaps they themselves have identified, which leads to increased productivity, boosted morale and higher staff retention.


“Our Skills for Growth family is continuing to grow and we now have a healthy provider network delivering vital training that is shaped by employers to identify pathways to progression and help businesses to thrive.”


Cheadle based business, Fresh Approach UK, , engaged with Skills for Growth – SME Support and has since seen staff undertake 96 training courses which have helped to create four new jobs, increase productivity by 20% and make £18,000 in savings from part and fully funded training. (full case study below).

Kelly Humphreys, Head of Support, Fresh Approach UK, said: “We’ve had a great experience with the Growth Company, accessing funded training for over half our team.


“We would not have been able to offer this number or variety of training to the team without the support of the team at Skills for Growth - SME Support or the funding towards training.”


A key part of the programme is GM Skills Map, a vital online resource pulling together commissioned provision as part of the wider Skills for Growth programme as well as other training opportunities available to businesses and individuals in Greater Manchester.


The resource was created to act as a ‘one stop shop’, making navigating the skills system much easier for employers and learners.


Currently the directory holds information from over 200 training providers including top universities, colleges and commercial organisations and lists more than 2,000 different training courses, as well as 457 apprenticeship programmes.


The resource is open to all SMEs in Greater Manchester but for full access, businesses must be registered on the programme.

Dawn Duggan, Head of People Skills and Talent – GC Business Growth Hub, said: “Skills for Growth is all about helping SMEs in Greater Manchester to grow by identifying skills gaps and we’re really pleased with the success so far.


“We’ve had a really strong response both in terms of the number of businesses and people we have helped. It’s really pleasing to see how the support has helped businesses and people to develop new skills and the positive business impacts that have been achieved as a result.


“We know the last couple of years have been tough for businesses and hope that this support is helping them to develop, grow and futureproof in these challenging circumstances. These challenges are just beginning for many companies and we are looking forward to continuing to support businesses to get the skills they need as we move forward.


“Places on the Skills for Growth – SME Support programme are available for a limited time only, so we would encourage interested businesses to apply online now at to avoid disappointment.”


Skills for Growth is a three-year programme, which has been developed to build a collaborative relationship between employers and the Greater Manchester skills system.


Following robust engagement with employers by GMCA and through the work GC Business Growth Hub is delivering to support SME’s, skills gaps in key sectors have been identified leading to bespoke, fully funded training to support the city-region’s workforce to thrive.


Some sectors this work is already taking place include digital, construction, low carbon and retrofit, health and social care, hospitality and manufacturing.


Businesses that are interested in applying for the Skills for Growth – SME Support programme can find out more here:


For information about the wider programme, please visit

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Skills for Growth - SME Support

Skills for Growth - SME Support

Skills for Growth - SME Support is a fully funded, tailored service to help upskill your employees and improve business productivity.