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GBSLEP has worked alongside a suite of expert partners, including its local authority partners and several Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) to establish pilot projects which will support SMEs in key growth sectors, as well as independents and towns and local centres. The LEP is now asking businesses within the region to step forward to find out if they are eligible for support. 

The schemes have been designed to offer direct support with challenges around adapting business models, moving services online and increasing technology adoption to improve future competitiveness, with the aim of helping businesses bounce back quickly as the economy begins to emerge from public health measures.

Amongst the newly launched schemes is a Click and Drop service which gives free access to a digital platform enabling local businesses to offer online shopping services and provide coordinated deliveries to customers. 

This is intended to respond to community needs for essential goods and supplies while encouraging organisations to adopt new working models to aid future growth.

 A programme to accelerate the digital capacities of businesses will also be available via an online course which combines one-to-one digital coaching and training. It will be delivered in partnership with the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) and a volunteer network of digital ambassadors.

A separate online training programme will focus on resiliency and preparing retailers for reopening, which will be delivered via webinars and one-to-one sessions with sector experts. 

An apprenticeship triage and employment triage programme has also been launched. GBSLEP will work with employers and individuals to introduce solutions to retain apprentices on training programmes, even whilst staff are furloughed. In addition to matching individuals who may have been made redundant through the crisis with employers experiencing an increased demand for workers. 

A grant scheme is also set to be created and will be finalised in the coming weeks, along with further sector specific support.

The schemes can be accessed via the GBSLEP Growth Hub, a single point of contact for business advice, funding and support for any business across the GBSLEP economic geography. It brings together partners offering business support through a web portal and expert advisers.

Whilst the first wave of programmes are currently in pilot phase there will be limited spaces available, however the LEP will seek to expand those that are successful. All businesses that come forward will receive support from the Growth Hub.

Chair of GBSLEP, Tim Pile, said:

“Businesses within Greater Birmingham and Solihull have faced immense challenges in the last few months. We have already seen many inspiring stories of businesses successfully shifting their business online or digitising processes in response to the crisis. It is vital that we offer as much support as we possibly can, not only to improve their resilience in the immediate term but to pave the way for future growth.

“By working closely with our partners, we have created and begun to implement schemes which will benefit organisations operating in a wide range of sectors, encouraging them to adopt new working models to continue operating and growing.  

“GBSLEP has been providing businesses with guidance via our Growth Hub since Covid-19 began to impact our lives and the economy. These new schemes will give additional specialised support in targeted areas to aid recovery, and we’d urge all businesses to step forward and visit our website to register their interest.”

Digital lead at the IET Ahmed Kotb said

“We’re pleased to be collaborating with GBSLEP to bring forward support for affected businesses and individuals at a time when it is more important than ever to ensure no business is left behind as we begin to rebuild the economy together.”

Leader of Birmingham City Council Councillor Ian Ward said:

"Businesses have a key role to play in our recovery from this crisis and it's absolutely vital that we help protect existing jobs and create the right conditions for future inclusive growth in Greater Birmingham and Solihull.

"Local authorities have worked to support businesses throughout the pandemic and, in launching these support schemes, GBSLEP is now helping businesses adapt to the challenges that lie ahead. We're working together to support the recovery and safeguard livelihoods."

Leader of Solihull Council Councillor Ian Courts, said:

“These new schemes supporting business is exactly what is required, and I fully support the GBSLEP’s approach.  We need to work with affected businesses and individuals to provide the necessary support for them to get the training, advice and/or funding to seize the opportunities our economic recovery will present. This will be a great addition to the £24 million we’ve pumped into the local economy in Solihull and support our recently launched economic recovery plan.” 

The GBSLEP area covers businesses operating in Birmingham, Solihull, Cannock Chase, East Staffordshire, Lichfield, Tamworth, Bromsgrove, Redditch and Wyre Forest. 

For more information about the business support schemes and to see if your business is eligible, visit www.yourstepforward.co.uk