As part of South East Local Enterprise Partnership’s (SELEP) focus to support businesses and skills in 2021, the LEP will be making available £4.4m for new COVID-19 Recovery Funds and the procurement process to identify organisations to deliver these has now launched. The procurement process will secure service providers and partners to deliver programmes using this funding throughout 2021-22.
Earlier this year, SELEP’s Board agreed to re-purpose available funding to focus on support for businesses recovering from the impacts of the pandemic at a time of unprecedented challenge, and to support investment in skills in response to the employment crisis experienced in 2020 as a result of COVID-19.
As a result of this repurposing, the South East LEP has created the £2.4m COVID-19 Business Support Fund and the £2m Skills COVID-19 Recovery Fund. The LEP has since been working hard to build these funds and be ready to support the recovery period in 2021, investing directly in those areas across the South East that need it most.
As 2021 will focus heavily on recovery – with SELEP helping to lead the effort in the South East – the launch of these funds has kicked off the new year with a much-needed boost for business and skills in the SELEP area.
Skills COVID-19 Recovery Fund
The £2 million Skills COVID-19 Recovery Fund will be split into three separate programmes to ensure that the funds are being put to best use:
- retraining for key sectors recruiting, helping those who lost their jobs during the pandemic and are looking for employment in essential industries;
- retraining for digital roles across all sectors, to ensure that South East residents are equipped for these vital roles; and
- basic digital skills, kit and connectivity, to help individuals in the South East currently without connectivity and access or kit.
A further procurement will be launched soon, focused on innovative solutions to skills barriers.
COVID-19 Business Support Fund
The £2.4 million COVID-19 Business Support Fund will also be split into three individual business support programmes, namely supporting pre-starts and start-ups; digitising business, supporting retail and e-commerce; and supporting the visitor economy. These programmes will provide both specialist advice and guidance to eligible businesses as well as small 100% business grants.
SELEP Chair Christian Brodie said:
“Our business community and those individuals who are seeking to re-skill must be supported in all ways available to us at this time. We have been working hard to establish these funds and are now ready to find delivery partners to administer and run them. I am delighted that we are kicking off the New Year with such positive news for our community and will soon be seeing a further £4.4 million being invested where it is needed most.
“Our business community needs all the support it can get after an incredibly tough year, and boosting skills with new training schemes will be a welcome initiative for the people who are seeking to enter new industries or upskill in their careers.”
SELEP’s SME Champion Clive Soper said:
“Few industries have suffered more during the COVID-19 pandemic than the visitor and tourism sector, so part of this fund will be used to support the visitor economy by helping businesses in this sector with specialist advice, guidance and small business grants.
“We must also ensure that the South East’s entrepreneurial spirit does not suffer. We must do all that we can to help start-ups and ensure that they have the tools in place to grow in spite of the extremely difficult conditions in the market.”
SELEP Skills Advisory Panel (SAP) Chair Helen Clements said:
“This funding will be a welcome support towards helping address some of the gaps that have been identified within skills and training, particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Most crucially, we will be working hard to help those who lost their jobs during the pandemic by providing upskilling and retraining for key sectors.
“In this new age of virtual job interviews and remote working, digital skills are more important than ever. That’s why we are earmarking a portion of this funding for retraining for digital roles across all sectors, as well as basic digital skills and kit to help the areas in the South East that are currently having to deal with poor connectivity.”
The tenders for these funds are now live, and the full suite of procurement documentation, including guidance, is now available via the Essex County Council portal. The tender will be open for a period of 30 calendar days, which will include a 14 day window for clarifications from bidders. Contracts are set to be awarded in February, with delivery commencing soon afterwards.
Any party who is interested in delivering these programmes needs to sign up to the Essex County Council Procurement Portal at supplierlive.proactisp2p.com/Account/Login.