Local businesses will be able to get access to a £4 million fund to pay for staff training from this week.

The biggest skills project ever undertaken by the East of England Development Agency (EEDA), Towards 2010 will assist an estimated 5,000 employees to learn new and develop their existing workplace skills.


This major new scheme – which is open to all businesses across the East of England – is aimed at helping to deal with the skills shortage in the region, and help with meeting targets set out in the economic strategy.


A grant of up to 70% of the cost of training will be covered by the Towards 2010 fund. There is a focus on seven key sectors, but companies working in any area will be able to apply, simply by demonstrating the value the proposed skills training will provide to the development of their business. Each key sector has a relevant agency handling applications for Energy; Environmental Technologies; Food and drink; Leisure, Tourism and Heritage; Biotechnology/Life sciences; Manufacturing and the Creative industries. Funding is due to be available until August 2007.


Towards 2010 sector specialists will work with companies to analyse their skills needs, identify skills shortages and help organise the right training provision.


Chief Executive of EEDA, David Marlow, said: “Although we are one of the fastest growing regions in the UK, we should not take this position for granted. We can only continue to grow and become a truly world class region if we invest in our people and give them the skills they need to be a success.


“The skills shortage is often cited as the reason for the failure of small companies with good ideas to develop. We believe this co-financing project addresses the issue and will result in over 1,800 companies receiving training which is tailored to their requirements.”


Towards 2010 is jointly funded by EEDA and the European Social Fund and will be co-ordinated for the region by Essex Development and Regeneration Agency (ExDRA).


Project manager John Willcock said: “The money will provide a great opportunity for businesses of all sizes to get new skills into their business, and by that I mean the real nuts-and-bolts skills that make an instant difference to the capability and output of a firm. It might be IT skills that allows a firm to use e-commerce, a short course on marketing to help with sales, or a few days on lean manufacturing methods that could quickly transform a production line.”


“Companies will have to go through a process to make sure the training is right for them, but we’ll be making sure the admin is kept to a minimum, and Towards 2010 advisors will help all the way.”


More information on how to apply for Towards 2010 funding is available from Matt Willis, the Towards 2010 Programme Co-ordinator on matt.willis@exdra.co.uk.