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£45m package to train staff and help Welsh SMEs grow

A £45m package of funding that will help small businesses across Wales to grow and support thousands of people to train to work in key sectors is being made available by the Welsh Government, Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething, announced today.

As part of the package, £35m will help small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) in Wales relaunch, develop, decarbonise and grow to help drive Wales’ economic recovery. The funding will support more than 1,000 business, help to create 2,000 new jobs and safeguard a further 4,000 jobs.

In a joint initiative between the Economy Minister and the Minister for Education and Welsh Language, Jeremy Miles, an additional £10m is being made available to boost Wales’ popular Personal Learning Accounts. This will enable further education colleges to deliver additional courses and qualifications which will help 2,000 people access a wider range of job and earning opportunities in priority sectors facing labour shortages.

Funding will be specifically targeted at reengaging and retraining staff to return to work in the NHS and in social care, training more HGV lorry drivers, reskilling individuals to respond to exciting new job opportunities in green construction and renewable energy, and to ensure there are more trained chefs, waiting and front of house staff to work in Wales’ thriving hospitality sector.

Ministers say the substantial package will help support Wales’ economy through the winter months.

The Economy Minister made the announcement during a visit to Advance Energy Services in Cross Keys to mark the start of Wales Climate Week. The company fit boilers, insulation and heat pumps with a focus on making homes and businesses more energy efficient.

Economy Minister Vaughan Gething said:

“The £45m package I’m announcing today is being delivered at a critical time in our economic recovery. It provides an opportunity to kick-start and grow the economy as we focus on creating a fairer, greener and prosperous future for Wales.

“The funding will offer businesses who need to re-invest – particularly following the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic, our departure from the EU, and with a view to climate and Covid proofing – the opportunity to do so, in order to relaunch, develop and grow.

“We’re doing all we can to build a Wales with a prosperous, fair, green economy, where nobody is held back or left behind.”

Announcing the additional investment in Personal Learning Accounts, Education Minister Jeremy Miles added:

“Personal Learning Accounts give people the opportunity to gain the skills, knowledge and qualifications they need to make progress in their career. I’m pleased we have secured an additional £10m to boost this initiative.

“This will provide opportunities for people to retrain and increase their earning potential in areas of the economy we know are under extreme pressure – including health and social care, training for HGV drivers, hospitality and green construction.”

The £35m funding for SMEs is the next phase of the Welsh Government’s approach to economic recovery and an important step towards re-establishing resilience within the Welsh economy and continued decarbonisation of Wales’ business sector.

Administered by local authorities, it provides an opportunity to kick-start and grow the economy following the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic and the UK’s departure from the EU.

Businesses will be invited to identify ways in which investment will help them re-launch their business, develop it in innovative new ways, and create new jobs.

It will also support businesses to tackle some of the major issues facing Wales, such as addressing skills gaps in some sectors, upskilling the existing workforce, ensuring fair work for employees and tackling climate change – with Ministers looking for proposals that will help Wales meet its legally binding Net Zero carbon emission target by 2050.

Businesses will be expected to match-fund any grants made available by the Welsh Government.

It’s expected the £35m funding will support around 1,000 business, helping them to create 2,000 new jobs and safeguard a further 4,000 jobs. It will help leverage £40m worth of investments by businesses themselves, which will help support the creation of 50 new enterprises.

The £10m for further education colleges will see the further expansion of Personal Learning Accounts, which will allow local colleges to deliver additional courses and qualifications to support 2,000 people to access a wider range of job opportunities and increase their earning potential in priority sectors.

These include:

  • Logistics (in particular HGV and LGV driving) including driver licence fees and tests. Funding will be targeted at driver training by offering courses to new potential drivers, provide refresher training for those who may be seeking a return to the sector; and to train and increase the number of instructors and examiners available to conduct driving tests;
  • Green construction and renewable energy – including roles in housing retrofit, and in wind, tidal and solar power sectors;
  • Advanced Materials and manufacturing – including technical engineers;
  • Hospitality – including chefs, catering assistants, waiting and front of house staff;
  • Health and social care – including support to re-engage and retrain former Health and Social Care employees back into the sector and meet the new licence to practice requirements.

Since the start of the Covid pandemic, Ministers have invested more than £2.5bn in emergency business support, helping protect in excess of 160,000 jobs which might otherwise have been lost.

The £35m SME funding will further boost existing local authority business support grants and will begin to open for applications in November. Applications will need to be made direct to local authorities once their individual grant schemes open.

FSB Wales has today welcomed the announcement by Welsh Government of a new package of support for smaller businesses in Wales.

The support, part of which is targeted at addressing some of the pressing skills shortages currently challenging sectors such as logistics and hospitality as well as supporting businesses in the move to decarbonise, comes at a critical juncture as Welsh businesses begin efforts to re-build and grow following the challenges of the Covid pandemic.

Speaking about the announcement, Ben Francis, Policy Chair at FSB Wales stated:

‘While the Coronavirus Pandemic is far from over, as businesses continue to recover from the pressures of the last 19 months, it is welcome that Welsh Government is to deliver support which will help those businesses turn a page and move to the next chapter. We’re pleased to see that Welsh Government have listened to our concerns about skills pressures in key sectors of our economy and that part of this money will be targeted at addressing some of those challenges.

This money will also help ‘de-risk’ some of the financial pressure of investment and innovation and help businesses look to new processes and opportunities. However, with the Christmas period almost upon us, we now need to move fast to ensure that business owners are aware of this opportunity to encourage them to bring forward proposals to be funded. We look forward to hearing further details on the conditions and funding criteria very soon.

Local Government in Wales played a crucial role in getting support to businesses during the worst of the Pandemic and particularly during the lockdowns and so we’re pleased that expertise and network will again be used to ensure that this money gets onto the ground and is locally-responsive as quickly as possible.

However, we know that the cost pressures on smaller businesses have increased substantially in recent months and a hike in the cost of employment looming next April in the shape of increased National Insurance contributions and with more likely rises in energy costs, further support will be needed to ensure that regrowth and recovery is put on a more permanent footing. Welsh Government has an opportunity to offset those cost pressures further in the forthcoming Budget process by ensuring the continuation of the Business Rates holiday which is due to expire at the end of this financial year. We would urge Government to move soon to confirm further Business Rates support alongside this latest package of funding’