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SMEs help bridge North East skills gap

Date 10 Oct 2007
Author The Editor
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Small business owners and the leaders of an initiative aimed at improving learning opportunities across the North East are working together to help bridge the region's skills gaps. Members of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) were asked by the leaders of the North East Higher Skills Network (NEHSN) for their views on training for employees.

NEHSN involves the region's 28 universities and colleges and hopes to give learners and employers in the North East access to the relevant, accessible and innovative higher level learning opportunities in the country. They decided to talk to the FSB - which represents thousands of members in the North East - to find out what training challenges are faced by small businesses.

During the meeting, business said they would prefer one central point of information on what training is available from the colleges and universities involved with NEHSN. They also asked for training on the small businesses' premises and that it did not necessarily have to be qualification based. The initiative plans to use the information to pass on to further and higher education establishments in the region.

FSB North East Regional Chairman, Colin Stratton, said: "We now know what is available in terms of training and funding that will make small businesses competitive. We were also able to tell NEHSN which skills gaps small businesses believe need filling. It was an excellent meeting."

Colin Wilkinson, NESHN's Employer Engagement Co-ordinator, said: "The event gave us the opportunity to find out from real small business people what they want from universities and colleges. We're now looking forward to working with colleagues in the universities and colleges to help them to support the growth of small businesses in the region through higher skills development. "We want to work with small businesses to meet their needs, and it made absolute sense for us to do that through the body which small businesses see as their own representative body."

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