By Claire West

Secretary of State for Business, Vince Cable, and Minister for Skills, John Hayes, today launched a £50 million a year fund to help businesses develop the skills they need to drive growth.

The Growth and Innovation Fund (GIF) will deliver targeted help for employer groups to overcome barriers to growth within their sectors and industries. The funding could deliver new training to boost innovation and productivity, enable industries to set new professional standards, or support new or extended National Skills Academies.

BIS will invest up to £50m per year in partnership with businesses, whose investment alongside Government could deliver a total of up £100m a year.

Secretary of State Vince Cable said:

“This government understands that to rebalance and grow our economy, we need to tackle the skills shortages that hold companies back. Through this fund, we will support employers that take collective action to overcome these blockages to expansion.

“By putting the employer voice at the heart of the process, we will reward inventive approaches to training that deliver real help to get business moving.”

Minister for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning, John Hayes said:

“Government investment in skills works best for individuals and communities when it responds directly to employers’ needs. By giving business the power to shape the training support we offer, we will ensure that public money directly supports jobs and growth.

“I look forward to working with industries of all kinds to deliver help where it is most needed to boost performance.”

The investment fund — which will be delivered in partnership by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) and the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) — invites proposals from employer organisations such as Sector Skills Councils, professional bodies and trade associations. The prospectus — published today — outlines three types of project where GIF funding and employer investment can be brought together:

‘Best Market Solutions’: which will invest in the best innovative ideas to drive enterprise and remove skills barriers to growth, including through the introduction of new voluntary professional standards and voluntary training leviesNational Skills Academies: expanding the successful network of National Skills Academies, which already exist in 16 sectors such as Environmental Technology, Railway Engineering and RetailJoint Investment Programme: bringing together employer and public investment in specific training projects which improve business productivity and growth, or address skills gaps and shortages.

Charlie Mayfield, Chairman of the UK Commission for Employment and Skills and Chairman of the John Lewis Partnership, said:

“This Fund is about employers taking control of their own destinies. We are looking for ambitious, innovative and sustainable schemes that will tangibly improve the skills base of the sector and make a real and lasting improvement to performance.”

Geoff Russell, Chief Executive of the Skills Funding Agency said:

“This is the opportunity for employers to be pioneers, customers and investors of skills and training. Through joint employer and Government investment we can boost the country’s skills and promote economic growth.”