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University Centre Shrewsbury (UCS) has received £235,000 in funding from the European Social Fund (ESF) and £156,000 in matching funds from the University of Chester to help Shropshire SMEs train and upskill their employees. At no cost to the company, UCS’ Building Skills and Growth Capacity (BSGC) team will assess a company’s workforce, whether it is a sole trader or staff of 250, and develop a tailored plan on how to develop their employees.   

“This funding helps to address one of the most pressing issues for local employers, namely how to upskill or reskill and retain highly skilled employees,” said Jonathan Britten, BSGC Project Manager, University Centre Shrewsbury. 

The project will focus on supporting the growth of SMEs and microbusinesses in the Marches through ensuring that they can identify and access the skills development options that align with and unlock their growth plans. The BSGC team will serve as consultants by conducting a focused skills audit to identify what skills the business needs to achieve its goal. After identifying barriers and challenges, the team will identify the skill levels required and the most suitable type of delivery, such as short courses, apprenticeships and student placements.  

The issues addressed could range from an owner-manager who would like to develop her skills in a particular area, or a company that needs to build a succession plan for its leadership or a plan to grow its workforce.  The advice could also focus on how to upskill existing employees and how to create opportunities for young graduates in the area. 

“This is an important addition to UCS’s support for local businesses,” said Paul Kirkbright, Deputy Provost, University Centre Shrewsbury. “The University now offers advice on building employee skills, creating digital solutions and developing environmental science and technology and it is all free of charge.” 

The BSGC project is one of three funded programmes at the University whose mission is to support Shropshire SMEs. In addition to this new programme, the University’s Digital Solutions Centre provides specialty advice on digital and technology needs and the Centre for Research into Environmental Science and Technology (CREST) can help SMEs and start-ups develop their innovative ideas through research for market readiness. Through CREST, the University also offers specialty laboratory and geospatial research to local businesses.  

To learn more about how the Building Skills and Growth Capacity programme can help your business, call 01743 297576 or email

The project is receiving up to £392,089 of funding from the European Social Fund and the University of Chester as part of the 2014-2020 European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme in England. The Department for Work and Pensions (and in London the intermediate body Greater London Authority) is the Managing Authority for the England European Social Fund programme. Established by the European Union, the European Social Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support skills development, employment and job creation, social inclusion and local community regenerations. For more information visit

The University Centre Shrewsbury is a unique partnership between the Shropshire Council and the University of Chester created by Shropshire, for Shropshire.  Now in its fourth year, the University offers high quality teaching for 15 undergraduate and 10 post-graduate degrees in one of England’s finest Medieval Tudor towns.   





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