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Stroud and South Gloucestershire (SGS) College has launched a new regional partnership designed to help SMEs increase the number of apprentices they employ.

Over the next year, the college, together with its partners Gloucestershire Enterprise Ltd, the University of Gloucestershire and Gloucestershire College, will be funded to assist businesses based in the region employing 250 or less staff to increase the number of apprenticeships they offer to their current and future workforce.

The partners, led by SGS, have successfully bid for a European Social Funded (ESF) project worth more than £1.8m.

The funding will go towards a number of support programmes including an impartial matching service to both learners and employers, campaigns to raise awareness of apprenticeships, a full mapping of current apprenticeship provision to identify gaps and ultimately will support the development of  apprenticeship provision to meet these needs.

Sara-Jane Watkins, principal of SGS College, said: "The funding will give a welcome boost to Gloucestershire businesses and it has been warmly welcome across the hundreds of employers that we and our partners already work with. We are now looking to spread this service to any SME who may be wondering what is possible for their current staff or as they grow their business.

"We recognise that it can be very difficult to navigate the current apprenticeship schemes and find appropriate funding support for staff. This project is free to SMEs and it will make it far easier for businesses to know who offers what, quickly and easily."

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