Scottish Government to open second phase of training fund to mitigate impact of Covid-19

THE second phase of a Scottish Government funding initiative to support the upskilling and reskilling of existing workforces is set to open.

The flexible workforce development fund (FWDF) helps firms continue to invest in their workforce and is available for all of Scotland’s employers who are subject to the UK Government’s apprenticeship levy. For the first time, the fund will now be available for both levy payers and SMEs, across the private, public and third sectors.

In August, the Scottish Government announced the immediate investment in jobs to provide the foundations for a strong economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic. As part of this, the FWDF, now in its fourth year, was doubled to £20 million for 2020/21 – with £13 million made available through the first phase for colleges to provide additional support  to levy paying employers.

The second phase, backed by £7 million, will also be utilised in responding directly to the impacts of the pandemic. The fund will open to applications on November 16. Of the £7 million, £5 million will be available to support SMEs through a college and Open University in Scotland partnership, while Skills Development Scotland will offer a new option which will test the use of private training providers for levy paying businesses who require specialist training.

Jamie Hepburn, the Scottish Government’s business, fair work and skills minister, said, “Opportunities for training are essential for both employers and employees, and in August we doubled funding for our flexible workforce development fund to £20 million for 2020/21 to ensure businesses across Scotland can continue to invest in their workforce.

“As this fund adapts and responds to the impacts of the pandemic, we will also see the introduction of additional delivery partners including the Open University in Scotland and private training providers for employers who require more specialist training.

“By strengthening upskilling the existing workforce, in partnership with colleges, we can retain jobs and support employers as they pivot and adapt to a new and very different working environment as a result of the pandemic.”

Andrew McRae, FSB’s Scotland policy chair, added, “This new funding could help many Scottish smaller businesses, and their staff teams, navigate the current crisis and ensure they’re prepared to take advantage of the recovery when it comes.

“FSB has been making the case to open up this cash pot to local firms, and we’d encourage all sorts of smaller operators to investigate how to access this support to build their business and develop their employees.”

Susan Stewart, director of The Open University in Scotland, commented, “The Open University in Scotland has led in the development of new skills for those facing redundancy, furlough or sectoral job pressures as a result of Covid-19. We welcome this funding which allows us to deliver support at scale to small and medium sized businesses across Scotland providing vital training as they adapt to new ways of working post pandemic.

“We will help businesses with a tailored, flexible package of online training to boost productivity and upskill and retrain employees particularly in those areas where skills gaps exist across Scotland like business management, digital, health and social care and the green economy.”