Shadow Education Minister Tristram Hunt MP launches free service to help small businesses in Stoke-on-Trent develop the skills of their staff

A major new initiative, designed to help unlock small business productivity and growth in Stoke-on-Trent through the provision of quality HR and skills development support, is being unveiled today by Shadow Education Secretary and Member of Parliament for Stoke-on-Trent Central, Tristram Hunt MP.

The People Skills programme has been developed by the CIPD, with support from J.P. Morgan through the JPMorgan Chase Foundation, and is being launched at an event today at the Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce, which is also delivering the service.

The twelve month research programme is being delivered in close collaboration with local partners in each of the project areas – Stoke-on-Trent, Hackney in East London and Glasgow – and will be embedded into their existing local business, skills and employment infrastructure to ensure easy access for local businesses. Over the course of the twelve month project, the People Skills programme will be available at no cost to small businesses (SMEs), and will equip them with a range of bespoke HR support including:

  • 1-2-1 guidance from experienced HR professionals who will work alongside businesses
  • A telephone helpline to discuss employment and skills issues
  • Online information and practical templates to help businesses save time when developing new employment processes
  • Local networking and group training events delivered on related people management and skills development topics.

The research programme aims to support SMEs in building their leadership and management/HR capability in order to help them utilise the skills of their employees more effectively. It will also encourage SMEs to invest in young people through work experience and apprenticeships, investment in training and building links with local schools and colleges. 

Shadow Education Minister Tristram Hunt and MP for Stoke-on-Trent Central who will be launching the local programme this evening, comments “We know many young people find it hard to make the jump from education to work. Part of the problem is that there are not enough links between schools and colleges and local businesses and the fact that many small businesses can be reluctant to take on a young person because of the perceived ‘risk’ this entails. This is why I’m delighted to be launching the People Skills programme, which will be highlighting the business case for recruiting a young person and supporting local small businesses to invest in young people through things like work experience placements and apprenticeships. 

Sara Williams, Chief Executive, Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce comments: “The success of a business is driven by its staff, so investing in people is crucial for any company. One of the best ways to do this is by attracting and developing the talents of young people through internships, work placements and apprenticeships. Young people bring a fresh perspective and new skills. They are keen to learn, have much to offer and, in my experience, are an asset to any business. “The People Skills programme gives small businesses in Stoke-on-Trent the support they need to enable them to offer young people opportunities. In doing this, they will not only create new jobs, they will also drive the growth of their business.”

CIPD Chief Executive Peter Cheese, comments: “The puzzle of the UK’s stagnant productivity performance has many components, but one crucial aspect that needs to be examined is how to help the UK’s small businesses raise their ambitions, boost their investment in people and make better use of skills in the workplace. Our People Skills programme is designed to help address this challenge, providing support where it’s needed to boost people management capability and ultimately performance and growth potential. “We’re delighted to be partnering with J.P. Morgan to deliver the People Skills programme which is being rolled out through key local partners. In each area the People Skills programme will be delivered via existing channels to ensure that it is not seen as another bolt-on skills initiative, but rather one that dovetails with existing business support.”

Hang Ho, Head of Europe, Middle East and Africa for JPMorgan Chase Foundation, comments: “One of the biggest challenges for policy makers today is how to encourage SMEs to invest more in young people to access talent. But just as importantly, if SMEs are to become more productive and grow, they need to make the most of their existing workforce through better people management and development. Therefore, we are delighted to support the People Skills programme and look forward to partnering with CIPD and other stakeholders to add to the thriving ecology of business support to enable SMEs to raise their game, to grow and get the most out of their people.” 


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