High Level Skills for SMEs

As an SME, are you experiencing skills shortages or skills gaps in your organisation?

ESF High Level Skills offers dedicated support, advice and funding to help you upskill your employees and access the wealth of graduate talent in the area. It is the only ESF-funded programme in D2N2 (Derby, Derbyshire, Nottingham and Nottinghamshire) dedicated to addressing high level skills needs in small or medium-sized businesses.

NTU and the High Level Skills consortium can help you grow as a business by creating a more diverse, creative and productive workforce through our 2 complementary projects – Priority Skills for D2N2 and GRADS for D2N2.


Through the programme, eligible SMEs will have access to the following projects:

  • Priority Skills for D2N2 SMEs

    The Priority Skills for D2N2 SMEs project aims to support SMEs across Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire to access bespoke, employer-led training, career coaching and advice to upskill their employees in vocational and high-level technical skills.

    The project will specifically support staff who may face additional barriers to high-level skills, including:

    • women
    • staff aged 50+
    • staff with disabilities
    • Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) staff
    • those who have previously missed out on traditional educational opportunities

    This project is about enhancing equal access to lifelong learning, including practical routes to earning learning credits towards further qualifications.

    NTU's offer

    NTU's offer for this project is a 3-day management, innovation and leadership course for women in SMEs.

    The course gives women the opportunity to learn in a supportive environment, using real case studies and examples from your business and sector, with a focus on issues facing women in SMEs.

    We'll work with you, other SMEs and learners to co-design assignment tasks relevant to individuals and their workplace to make their learning relevant to your business.

    The course explores:

    • management and leadership issues and trends in organisations
    • effective leadership and management techniques
    • the role of leaders in developing high-performing teams
    • individual leadership qualities to engage and motivate every learner
    • the opportunity to apply learning to a real leadership challenge

    Many of those completing the course could receive 20 credits towards further qualifications, such as a postgraduate diploma or certificate.

    To make the course as inclusive as possible, it's run from 10am-4pm in accessible locations around the region.

    The course includes up to 3 hours of free career coaching for women keen to progress.

    Why focus on women in leadership?

    Our Priority Skills for D2N2 SMEs offer provides small and medium-sized businesses working in priority sectors free bespoke training and career coaching for women keen to progress into senior, management and leadership roles.

    Women play a huge role in business across Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, but they are often paid less than their male counterparts and are more likely to miss out on career development opportunities due to factors such as part-time working to juggle responsibilities such as childcare or caring for relatives.

    What are the rest of the consortium offering?

    • Derby College – employer-led bitesize courses and flexible individual learning pathways
    • Nottingham College flexible, bespoke career progression courses and vocational taster sessions
    • University of Derby – employer-led short courses focused on higher and technical skills

  • GRADS for D2N2

    Our GRADS for D2N2 offer provides small and medium-sized businesses working in priority sectors a complete package of free and subsidised support to help you benefit from graduate talent in the region.

    Whether you're an SME looking to recruit local graduates or you're keen to see how graduate and high-level skills could support your business in different ways.

    As an eligible SME, you can access a wide range of support to plug skills gaps, achieve more and grow your business.

    Skills and talent needs assessment

    After enrolling onto the project, you can request a free, full review of your business' current organisational set-up. Using this, we can identify your future needs and goals to explore how graduate and high-level skills could boost your business productivity now and in the future.

    Skills and talent action plans

    We can help you develop an action plan to implement the findings of the skills and talent needs assessment.

    Talent grants and graduate placements

    Talent grants can be used to support work experience, student placements and graduate roles that are meaningful for you.

    Employability advice

    One-to-one advice and workshops.

    Higher and degree apprenticeships advice

    Grow your own apprentice by making them a key part of your organisation's development. You can work with our Apprenticeships team to understand how a higher or degree apprenticeship could be used to up-skill existing employees and attract new talent.

    Putting SME voice at the heart of course design

    Through co-design we aim to continually put SME needs, insight and experience at the core of developing and delivering our courses.

    What are the rest of the consortium offering?

    • Derby College – support to benefit from higher and degree apprenticeships and employer-led work experience placements
    • Nottingham College – employer-focused further education, employer-led work experience placements and support for SMEs to integrate students and graduates into the work environment
    • University of Derby – match funding to employ graduate interns and paid work experience placements at no cost to participating SMEs
    • Nottingham City Council – support to benefit from higher and degree apprenticeships through the award-winning Nottingham Jobs team and signposting to funding available

Upcoming events

Stakeholder Engagement Event

27 June 2019, 9-10am, NTU City Campus

The High Level Skills consortium is holding an event to reach our to organisations in the D2N2 area that work with SMEs to explore opportunities to work together on this, and future projects.

Latest news

From a graduate placement to a graduate job: connecting SMEs to NTU's talent pool

20 May 2019

The High Level Skills programme supported V Formation to take on a six-week placement which became a permanent position for an NTU graduate.

Nottingham Business School deliver first management and leadership course for women in SMEs

29 March 2019

In March, NBS delivered the first in a series of 3-day management, innovation and leadership courses specifically for women in SMEs. Read more about the course and get the verdict from some of the attendees.

Read more

Celebrating International Women's Day with NTU commercial support

4 March 2019

Nottingham Trent University is proud to support International Women's Day 2019 with a week of events celebrating women in business, the ESF High Level Skills programme addressing skills gaps and shortages in SMEs, and tackling gender inequality in tech with Refinitiv.

Read more

NTU launch programme to boost high level skills across Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire

1 February 2019

On Monday 28 January 2019, a consortium of universities and colleges across D2N2 (Derby, Derbyshire, Nottingham and Nottinghamshire) launched the European Social Fund (ESF) High Level Skills programme to tackle high level skills shortages and skills gaps in the region.

Read more

View all stories about the ESF High Level Skills programme

Who is eligible?

Most small and medium organisations in Derby, Derbyshire, Nottingham and Nottinghamshire are eligible for support.

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are defined as:

  • Less than 250 employees
  • Annual turnover under EUR 50 million or;
  • Annual balance sheet less than EUR 43 million

Companies must be based in the D2N2 area to qualify for support. D2N2 is the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) for Derby, Derbyshire, Nottingham and Nottinghamshire.

The consortium

Nottingham Trent University is part of a consortium working together to deliver this ground-breaking programme, which is funded by the European Social Fund (ESF).

The consortium includes Nottingham Trent University, Derby College, Nottingham College, the University of Derby and Nottingham City Council.

This is the first time universities and colleges in the region have worked together on such a large scale to develop employer-led learning and training in collaboration with local SMEs.

ESF High Level Skills Consortium Banner

Contact us

Support is available to businesses until 2020.

If you are interested in accessing these services or would like to know more, contact our team at esf@ntu.ac.uk or by calling +44 (0)115 848 8899.

Further information

Still need help?

High Level Skills Central Team
+44 (0)115 848 8899