Calling all SME owners! As part of a new fund supported by the Scottish Government, SMEs across Scotland can now access funded training up to the value of £5,000 provided by the Open University (OU). The funding aims to support organisations to restart, recover and renew in response to the impact of the pandemic.
A £1million grant was awarded to the OU in Scotland at the end of 2021 as part of the Scottish Funding Council’s Flexible Workforce Development Fund 2020-21: Phase 2, and is now being rolled out to businesses.
60% of employers are struggling to recruit the skills they need
The OU’s Business Barometer Report 2020 shows that 60% of employers in Scotland are still struggling to find the skills they need, with many opting to recruit temporary staff. This costly, short-term approach saw Scottish employers spending £460 million to plug skills gaps last year. That’s a 60% increase on the previous year.
Suzanne McQuade, the business relationships manager (Scotland) at the OU, said: “This approach is unsustainable, particularly for SMEs, so this initiative presents an excellent opportunity for those organisations seeking to address critical skills gaps.”
SMEs can choose from a tailored suite of training for their employees, delivered online through the OU’s innovative learning platforms. It is a highly flexible way to access the training businesses need, in the workplace or from home, whilst accommodating operational requirements and optimising business efficiency.
The OU in Scotland will support SMEs through training at Scottish Credit & Qualifications Framework (SCQF) Level 10 (undergraduate) and SCQF Level 11 (postgraduate) and through industry recognised or accredited provision.
But what skills will employers want to invest in?
“Digital skills are an obvious choice,” continued Suzanne. “Even prior to Covid-19, there was a shortage of digital skills, and that shortage intensified in 2020, partly due to the rapid digitisation of services and products.
“Organisations need digital skills and they need them now. Leadership and management are also vital, sought after skills that will help drive business change and recovery. The pandemic has also shined a light on health and social care and how skills in this sector are critical to the welfare of all society – and we should also not forget the urgent and ongoing challenge for organisations to be more sustainable and invest in green technologies.”
Training options focus on areas reflecting Scotland’s skills priorities in leadership and business, digital and IT, health and social care, and green economy.
Suzanne added: “At the OU we understand the many urgent and complex challenges facing SMEs currently, and we encourage you to be proactive and to take a long-term approach to develop your organisation’s talent.”
SMEs are advised to make an application as soon as possible, as access to the fund will be on a first-come-first-served basis. To find out more about how The Open University in Scotland can help your SME to develop a future-proof workforce through the Scottish Funding Council’s Flexible Workforce Development Fund, visit The Open University’s website, open.ac.uk.