Step up for skills

Semta is handing out grants to employers to train staff for NVQ qualifications under a £65m government initiative

Engineering companies in the UK can apply for up to £1,800 worth of training funding per employee under a government-backed scheme designed to boost skills in the sector.

The £65m programme run by Semta, the sector skills council for science, engineering and manufacturing technologies, offers grants to help staff achieve higher NVQ qualifications. Part of the cash has been earmarked for developing employees’ management skills.

The scheme is part of Train to Gain, the Learning and Skills Council’s initiative to provide tailored support to meet employers’ individual skills needs.

Philip Whiteman, chief executive of Semta, said: ‘This is for employers in the Semta footprint based in the UK. They need to meet the normal requirements of Train to Gain by demonstrating their commitment to producing a training plan to get their staff to level two or level three qualifications.

‘The key benefit of this new deal is that staff who already have such a qualification can be funded for a second qualification provided it is in business improvement techniques.’

Organisations can apply for grants of between £500 and £1,800 per employee, depending on what training is needed. There are also grants of up to £1,500, available for companies with 10 to 250 employees who want to develop their management and leadership skills.

‘Semta staff who are sector experts will go into companies and help them analyse their business and assess their skills need,’ said Whiteman. ‘Then Semta will signpost companies to the most appropriate training providers or organisations, such as the Manufacturing Advisory Service, based on the assessment.’

Jackson Keay, a transportable pressure equipment manufacturer based in Nottingham, trialled the initiative, which enabled the company to provide management training for key supervisory staff.

Neil Bradshaw, the company’s group operations director, said: ‘Seven frontline managers were trained and it has allowed them to do their job and brought them closer together as a team. It has enabled them to understand how a business works, which means they have been able to drive projects forward. Then they have got the respect of their employees as well.’

Bradshaw said the training helped the managers to better control absenteeism — a particular issue for the company — and offer incentives for staff.

Employees at Jackson Keay also received training in lean manufacturing to improve the efficiency of the organisation’s production processes.

Bradshaw was enthusiastic about the government’s plans to develop skills in the engineering sector, but called for more help for small and medium-sized companies wanting to make investments in processes and equipment to help increase their competitiveness.

‘We have plant which we would like to replace with renewable and energy-efficient equipment — it would be nice if there were some funding available there, even if it is a payback kind of funding,’ he said.