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Following a £1 million commitment by the Scottish Funding Council, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) – organisations with less than 250 employees – across Scotland can access fully funded training up to the value of £5,000* delivered by The Open University (OU), to support the development of both their staff and volunteers.

Funded by the Scottish Government as part of Phase 2 of the Flexible Workforce Development Fund (FWDF), to help SMEs address key skills gaps, adapt to new ways of working and maximise the opportunities to restart, recover and renew. Applications for FWDF 2021-22: Phase 2 launch today.

Courses offered by the OU reflect Scotland’s skill priorities with short courses, microcredentials, undergraduate and postgraduate modules available in leadership and business; digital and IT; health and social care; and green economy. With the flexibility of the OU’s digital delivery model, individuals can develop their skills around business demands, giving employers the opportunity to future proof and invest in their workforce.

Marie Hendry, Depute Director, External Engagement and Partnerships at The Open University in Scotland, said:

“This funding provides a great opportunity for those small and medium-sized enterprises that are the lifeblood of the Scottish economy to develop their existing workforce as they respond to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, providing vital training as they adapt to new ways of working.

“Operating across Scotland and delivering high-quality online training, the OU is uniquely placed to help industry address national and regional skills gaps and support employers to develop in an ever- changing world of work.

“We know that Scotland’s SMEs have been particularly affected by the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and these organisations and their people will play a crucial role in Scotland’s recovery. Our tailored training plans will help SMEs to upskill and retrain their existing workforce to maximise the opportunities to restart and recover.”

Suzanne McQuade, Business Relationships Manager at The Open University in Scotland, added:

“We offer a highly flexible approach working with organisations to understand their skills challenges and shaping training and development to suit them. Individuals can access our innovative online training in the workplace or from home at a time to suit while accommodating ongoing business operations.

“We’d encourage any SME across the private, public and third sectors to get in touch to discuss the delivery of a development programme that is tailored to the needs of your organisation.”

Fraser Ferguson, Director of KubeNet Ltd, commented: “The flexible learning suits our staff, and the support and resources are excellent, allowing study in any location.”

Maria Bell, Managing Director of Mesomorphic Ltd, concluded: “As a SME working with The Open University in Scotland to develop our workforce, we really benefit from the university’s experience with distance learning especially as it is ideal for rural businesses looking to provide flexible upskilling and reskilling opportunities to staff within their local community.”

SMEs are advised to make an application as soon as possible, as access to the fund will be on a first-come-first-served basis. For further information on eligibility, please visit the website.

*For SMEs who have not yet availed of FWDF 2020-21: Phase 2, applications can still be supported by the OU until the 30 September. Courses begin in October, as well as a range of on-demand options. Businesses can apply for both FWDF 2020-21 and 2021-22.

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