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Black History Month: Celebrating and supporting black-led businesses through High Level Skills

The High Level Skills programme is working with strategic partners across D2N2 to engage with and support black-led businesses.

George Africanus plaque

This support is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund

October is Black History Month and it is timely to celebrate and note the contribution that black-led businesses make to the local economy both in the present day and historically.

As part of Nottingham's own history, a green plaque in St Mary’s Church marks the grave of George Africanus, ‘Nottingham's first black entrepreneur’. This BBC article details how in 1829 he became a "freeholder", owning his own family home as well as business premises and accommodation he rented out.

Nationally, Real Business states that ‘According to research conducted in 2015 by the Economic and Social Research Council, businesses run by Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) entrepreneurs were estimated to contribute between £25 and £32 billion per year to the British economy.’

As part of the High Level Skills programme we want to ensure that local black-led business are informed and able to access the support and opportunities available through both GRADS for D2N2 and Priority Skills for D2N2 SMEs projects. The programme, which is part-funded by the European Social Fund (ESF), is committed to supporting gender equality and equal opportunity by ensuring appropriate actions are taken to raise awareness and improve access to the support for black-led businesses.

There are many networks that seek to recognise, celebrate and support Black business development and successes, including The Black Achievers Awards and the  UK Black Business Show. The High Level Skills programme also continues to share information about opportunities through any appropriate networks recommended by our network of partners, and will take action to support these aims where possible. 

For example, over the last six months programme staff from Nottingham Trent University and Nottingham City Council have been in touch with the B-Global network and presented at business events in support of this aim.

The B-Global network was founded by Nottingham City Council’s Councillor Leslie Ayoola in response to the under-representation of black-led businesses accessing financial or IAG (information, advice and guidance) support.

Andria Birch, High Level Skills Programme Manager will be exploring how to develop links further as part of this aim in a meeting with Cllr Ayoola planned for early-October 2019.

Black History Month reminds us that the contributions of black-led businesses are historically significant, and how important it is to take positive action to raise awareness of all opportunities available to support growth and success, and that they can be accessed by all. Of course, this is a priority for the whole year, but Black History Month is a great opportunity to further highlight the contributions made and opportunities available.

Black History Month logo

The High Level Skills programme is made up of two complementary projects that aim to provide support, advice and funding to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) across D2N2, allowing them to upskills their staff and recruit local talent.

The Priority Skills for D2N2 SMEs project is focused on upskilling existing employees, and support from the consortium ranges from bespoke courses at level 3 and 4, specialist level 6 technical skills, and courses focusing on management and leadership. Many of these courses are part or fully-funded.

The GRADS for D2N2 project is all about helping SMEs connect with the wealth of local skills and talent coming out of our colleges and universities to help them grow in the future. It offers SMEs a package of support which includes FREE organisational needs assessments and action plans, employability and apprenticeship support and workshops, talent grants, and the opportunity to put their voice at the heart of our curriculum through co-design.

Find out more

You can keep up-to-date on the latest activity from the B-Global network on their Twitter page – @bglobalnow.

To enquire about getting involved in the programme, please email You can also get in touch by calling 0115 878 8899.

For more information, visit our website.

ESF and DWP logos

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