A total of £3.1million available for projects via the European Social Fund
Businesses and charities are being advised to ‘be ready’ by the Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (OxLEP) after it was announced that the Education and Skills Funding Agency had published two European Social Fund (ESF) project specifications, with the aim of supporting people to gain access to the workplace.
Today (21 August), £2.1million will be made available for a Skills Support for the Workforce project to back activities that help to upskill Oxfordshire’s workforce, whilst an additional £1million Skills Support for the Unemployed fund is also on-hand for projects that help the county’s long-term unemployed to gain access to training and job opportunities.
As one of 37 Local Enterprise Partnerships in England, OxLEP is encouraging businesses and organisations to apply for funding, prior to ESF’s application process deadline of 17 September.
It’s hoped that those bidding for a share of the £2.1million fund will create a programme tailored to increase skill levels, including via new higher-level apprenticeships stimulating growth for businesses in the process.
The £1million pot will help to equip individuals with skills to support sustained employment and progression in the workplace.
Organisations planning to bid for the £1million share will need to create a service that helps to improve the employability of those not in work, as well as addressing basic skills requirements of the unemployed – and those inactive – so that they can compete effectively in the labour market.
It’s also hoped bids will provide support for women disadvantaged in the labour market – helping to reduce the gender employment gap.
Key dates for ESF applications are:
- 21 August – application process opens
- 17 September – application process closes
- 1 April – programme delivery set to commence
Nigel Tipple, Chief Executive of OxLEP, said: “A key aspect of creating – and indeed sustaining – a successful economy is to ensure those furthest away from the employment market are able to access it much more readily and effectively.
“Organisations will be able to make a genuine impact on the Oxfordshire economy through this round of funding.
“One of our priorities as a Local Enterprise Partnership is ‘People’. This priority aims to: ‘Deliver and attract specialist and flexible skills at all levels – across all sectors – as required by our businesses with full, inclusive employment and fulfilling jobs’. With this in mind, we would absolutely encourage organisations to come forward with bids for this fund.”
Since 2014, Oxfordshire has successfully secured £8.6million-worth of ESF funding, supporting a variety of projects.
Programmes to have benefited from funding include Activate Learning’s £1.2million three-year Building Better Opportunities project, launched in August 2016. It helps Oxfordshire’s long-term unemployed to gain access to training and employment.
Over 300 residents have taken part in the project since it began.
In addition, a £460,000 Oxfordshire Community Grants Scheme – run by Oxford City Council – provides grants from £5,000 to £50,000 for community groups, helping residents access development schemes and jobs.
The Activate Learning-led ‘Back on Track’ project – a £1million scheme – helps to transform the lives of youngsters at risk of becoming NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training) or who have recently become NEET.
A total of 26 secondary schools have so far engaged in the programme.