A £5million countywide package of support programmes for small businesses and apprentices has been launched through a Staffordshire councils partnership.

It will add to those already being delivered by county, district and borough councils as well as a range of other organisations, including central Government.

The latest Staffordshire Means Back to Business support programmes include an investment to cover the costs for up to 500 apprentices, a training top-up fund for businesses to upskill their employees, a grants scheme to enable small businesses to thrive.

There is also a loan scheme for people who want to set up their own business and have completed the online Start-Up training course and a programme to support entrepreneurs currently in further education to set up their own business.

By pooling a targeted county council investment with district and borough council support funding, the programmes can benefit small businesses imminently. The programmes are topped up by Government funding and other sources.

The county council is investing £860,000 into the schemes across Staffordshire and is running them on behalf of the partnership. District and borough councils are using Government funding for businesses impacted by the pandemic.

The Staffordshire 500, Apprentices Wage Support programme could see the creation of up to 500 apprentices. It will incentivise employers to take on 16 to 24-year-olds by contributing to the costs associated with recruiting and retaining an apprentice. It will support smaller companies that do not pay into the national apprenticeship levy. The programme could also offer apprentices progression from the national Kickstart scheme.

Businesses are being offered support to upskill their employees or train new staff in accordance with their changing business operations or entering new markets through the Free Training Top-up Project. Grants of up to £5,000 would be provided and matched through other funding sources. Up to 400 Staffordshire businesses could be supported over the next 15 months through the programme.

The Small Business ‘To Thrive’ Financial Support programme offers grants to small businesses between £2,000 and £5,000 to cover additional expenditure to help businesses with a plan to recover and get back to growth. Applicants will need to demonstrate all the measures they have put in place to remain open during the restriction period or the growth plan they have in place.  

People can find out more about the new programmes at: www.staffordshire.gov.uk/5millionscheme

Staffordshire County Council’s deputy leader and cabinet member for economy and skills Philip White said: “It is critical that as a county council we continue to prioritise support for small businesses and people whose jobs or employment prospects have been impacted by the pandemic.

“In an area like Staffordshire that has a county council plus district and borough councils with their own COVID-19 funding this support is far more effectively delivered by close collaborative working between councils and a range of other partners to make our respective funding go further.

“We hope that our new programmes will reach more people and businesses affected by the pandemic. We owe it to businesses and communities to direct all available funding where it is needed most, and vitally to make it accessible as soon as possible.

“The programmes are designed to complement existing support schemes and cover gaps in the assistance already available. We look forward to working with colleagues across our district and boroughs to make a difference to our communities and the local economy over the coming months.”