Funding pot could help give Tees Valley SMEs’ growth plans a boost

Hundreds of small to medium-sized enterprises across the Tees Valley could be eligible for a share in a £7 million pot to help upskill their workforce.

But with employers often wrapped up in the day-to-day running of their business, many may be missing out on this bespoke opportunity.

Now, as part of the Skills Support for the Workforce’s network of training providers, Stockton Riverside College is urging businesses to consider their training needs.

Funding pot could help give Tees Valley SMEs’ growth plans a boost
Commercial Business Development Co-ordinator, Andrew McElwee

With a fund of almost £7 million available to SMEs in the Tees Valley alone, the college’s Commercial Business Development Co-ordinator, Andrew McElwee, said: “This is a fantastic chance for employers to access free training through the college for their staff, equipping them with the skills they need to grow their business.”

The Skills Support for the Workforce programme is a national initiative that aims to help SMEs across the UK to thrive by offering access to bespoke training to help plug skills gaps, raise productivity and ultimately grow the economy.

Funded by the European Social Fund and the Education and Skills Funding Agency, the programme is being delivered in the region by Calderdale College, working alongside Local Enterprise Partnerships and a network of professional training providers, including Stockton Riverside College.

Andrew said: “We are excited to be able to play our part, along with the Tees Valley Combined Authority, in bringing this opportunity to business owners across the Tees Valley. This is a massive opportunity in that it is a chance to upskill the individual, to upskill the business and grow the economy.”

With a particular focus on advanced manufacturing and engineering, energy, digital, life sciences, business services, the service sectors, retail and construction, Andrew said: “SMEs from any sector can apply.”

Now keen to spread the word, he said: “If a small business owner, for example, is going to work every day and then going home to do the books and pay the bills, they can easily not be aware of the opportunities that are available to them.”

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said: “Here in the Tees Valley we have a fantastic workforce with employees who are really keen to improve their skills and further their careers. This fund will give businesses and entrepreneurs the opportunity to provide the training needed to help them do this.

“I have always supported schemes that create jobs, encourage investment and support growth and I encourage businesses across the Tees Valley to take advantage of this pot of money which could really benefit them.

“There are well-paid, good quality jobs being created in the Tees Valley and I want them to be filled by local people equipped with the right skills.”

Ebrahim I Dockrat, Director of Commercial Services and Partnerships at Calderdale College, said: “By offering free training provided by specialists we can help our SMEs grow, which will boost our economy and deliver even more high-quality jobs that can be filled by local people.”

To find out more about the support available visit: or call 01642 777217.

Launch of a North East shipping school to create a talent pool for “invisible industry”

Business leaders are working together to raise awareness of an often overlooked global industry anchored in the roots of the Tees Valley.

The Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers has partnered with Stockton Riverside College to introduce the first phase of a dedicated shipping school to the region.

Bringing together employers, industry experts and educators, the North East School of Shipping (NESS) will help to demystify the sector, putting it firmly on the radar of those considering their future careers.

By developing a future skilled workforce, the school, which is the Institute’s first in the UK outside of London, aims to help tackle both current and future skills gaps.

Nikki Sayer, Chair of the North East branch of the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers and Customs Manager at Casper Shipping, said: “The whole journey of products coming from the other side of the world is invisible to people and shipping is a massive part of that. We want to open people’s eyes to the vast opportunities that are out there and offer accessible training for those starting out and also those progressing in their careers.”

With global trade high on the UK’s agenda, the potential for an increased demand in skills is clear.

PD Ports’ Chief Executive Officer, Frans Calje, said: “Every business needs good people and at PD Ports we invest heavily to support the ongoing learning and development of our people.

“With over 95% of all UK imports arriving in the country on a ship, it’s easy to see how the maritime industry is critical to the UK economy and society generally yet it lacks visibility, in particular, amongst young people. Our aim through the North East School of Shipping is to raise visibility of the abundance of opportunities and variety of roles available, making it a career of choice for the next generation in the Tees Valley.”

Welcoming the Shipping School to the region, Tees Valley Mayor, Ben Houchen, said: “Teesside is a trading region, we always have been and always will be. As Britain once again looks outwards to the rest of the world with an independent trade policy, ports like Teesport are going to be even more important to our local economy than they are now.

“This, coupled with the exciting prospect of Teesport and the South Tees Development Corporation site becoming one of the UK’s first free ports, means we need to make sure our young people have the skills needed to take advantage of the new job opportunities created around the port.

“By locating the new Shipping School here in the Tees Valley it means our young people can develop the right skills safe in the knowledge that what they are learning is exactly what they need to get on and develop a career.”

Based on the London School of Shipping model, the North East School of Shipping will provide a range of courses to those starting out in the shipping industry, delivered by Stockton Riverside College.

Michael Duffey, Stockton Riverside College’s Head of Department for Construction and Professional Services, said: “The College has been working closely with industry employers and experts for several years to provide training opportunities and raise awareness of the logistics industry, resulting in the Tees Valley Logistics Academy. The introduction of the Shipping School with the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers seemed like a natural progression in our mission to raise awareness and help to plug future skills gaps.”