UWE wins funds to help the West during economic downturn

Issue date: 09 April 2009


University of the West of England The University of the West of England with its partners has put together a package of nearly £1m including winning almost £500,000 funding from the Higher Education Funding Council (HEFCE) Economic Challenge Investment Fund (ECIF) to find ways of helping businesses during the current economic downturn. The ECIF was introduced earlier this year to enable the Higher Education sector to respond rapidly to the skills development and retraining needs of employers and individuals.

UWE Deputy Vice-Chancellor, John Rushforth, is delighted and says that UWE is well placed to offer support in difficult economic times. He said, “This is recognition of the University's commitment to enterprise, the community and its wide range of major partnerships. We have worked with business to devise an exciting programme of retraining and enterprise support programmes. We will be doing all we can to support the region through the current recession.”

Professor Stephen Hagen, Director of Research, Business and Innovation at UWE who led the bid, he said, “The University will work with organisations throughout the region, particularly the UWE Federation and those within the West-at-Work* regional partnership, to ensure a coordinated support package for businesses and individuals. We expect almost 1500 people and businesses to benefit from the schemes that we will manage. UWE will focus on what it does best by working with others to provide relevant higher-skills development and retraining for individuals and high-level business support schemes.

“We will help industries hardest hit by the downturn including advanced engineering, manufacturing, financial and business services sector, retail, leisure, construction, automotive and small businesses in the Bristol City region and Swindon.

“UWE and partners will provide retraining, alternative career pathways and tools to improve efficiency. The work we do in this area will help support individuals facing redundancy, recent graduates and professionals. Businesses of all sectors and size will benefit, notably those facing falling demand, increased costs, greater competition and those facing difficult redundancy decisions.”

Partner schemes will include a new Walk-In and Referral service at Bush House Harbourside, Bristol and the service will be extended to Swindon in due course staffed by UWE and BusinessLink focusing on delivering business support schemes and higher-level re-training within that regional framework of support. The service will include skills brokers, career guidance counsellors and enterprise/business start-up mentoring support. Individuals and businesses will be entitled to a free consultation and assessment.

The funding includes the introduction of new Enterprise and Training Vouchers (ETVs) for entry on to training schemes or business support schemes delivered across the region. ETVs will have a nominal value of £235 and can be awarded (subject to HEFCE limits) for attendance on accredited and non accredited courses. Vouchers will be awarded in line with HEFCE guidelines with priority being given to unemployed applicants, those under threat of redundancy, or at risk, and those facing barriers to employment (e.g. ethnic minorities, disabled and those aged 50 plus).

Finally in conjunction with BusinessLink and BusinessWest, UWE will offer a range of services which will typically follow initial diagnosis or delivery of first level services by BusinessLink or Jobcentre+. This will include advice on alternative routes to redundancy and access to sponsored UWE business support schemes, including Enterprise and start-up programmes.

The new initiative will build upon developments earlier this year to support postgraduate students and business such as the launch of a 60 seater innovation and incubation unit in Bristol city centre as well as discounts offered to attending students.

To be the first to know when the service is launched and what you can expect from it register your interest with ecif@uwe.ac.ukor call 0117 32 82808.

Ends

Editors notes:

*West-at-Work is a business led partnership which includes the following organisations; the Regional Development Agency, Learning and Skills Council, Jobcentre+, BusinessLink, Connexions, NextStep, BANES, Bristol City Council, North Somerset Council, South Gloucestershire Council, South West TUC, ACAS, City of Bristol College Government Office South West and the West of England Partnership.

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