High Level Skills for SMEs

Nottingham Trent University provides subsidised support to SMEs in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire with two ESF funded programmes.

Nottingham Trent University is working with a consortium of local colleges and universities to provide SMEs in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire with the high level skills and graduates they need to grow and thrive, through a ground-breaking project funded by the European Social Fund. The consortium includes Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham College, Vision West Nottinghamshire College, Derby College and the University of Derby.

The project aims to help SMEs working in the region’s priority sectors and their supply chains to tackle skills shortages and skills gaps - by making sure the area is home to a talented workforce with the high level, 21st century skills that SMEs really need.

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.

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

Prorgrammes and delivery

Through the project, eligible SMEs will have access to the below programmes:

Priority Skills for D2N2 SMEs
Bespoke, employer-led training, career coaching and advice to upskill and support people working in SMEs across Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire.

Grads for D2N2
Support for SMEs to benefit from ‘work ready’ graduate talent in the region including grants to employ graduates, employer-led work experience and internships, and vocational routes to acquiring graduate-level skills such as higher and degree apprenticeships.

The project has been developed in response to a need for high level skills and pathways in the area, also highlighted in the latest D2N2 draft Strategic Economic Plan for 2019-2030. D2N2 is the Local Enterprise Partnership for Derby, Derbyshire, Nottingham and Nottinghamshire.

  • Priority Skills for D2N2 SMEs

    Through the project, SMEs in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire can access bespoke, employer-led training, career coaching and advice to upskill and support their employees. From higher and degree apprenticeships, to high-quality short courses, training is designed to give employees high level technical and job-specific vocational skills relevant to the region’s priority sectors and supply chains.

    Training available to SME employees includes:

    • A range of qualifications from employer-led basic skills to higher and degree apprenticeships
    • Units of qualifications, micro credentials and digital badges
    • Short courses focused on higher and technical skills
    • Structured career coaching

    How will SMEs benefit?

    • Get help to tackle skills shortages and skills gaps by upskilling your employees.
    • Support employees who may face barriers to progressing in their careers.
    • Boost recruitment and retention by unlocking talent and creating a more diverse, inclusive workforce.
    • Boost growth and productivity.
    • Prepare for challenges and opportunities such as digitisation and advanced manufacturing.

    The project consortium includes Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham College, Vision West Nottinghamshire College, Derby College and the University of Derby. Through the consortium, SMEs can access a range of support including:

    Nottingham Trent University – structured career coaching and short courses for women.

    Nottingham College – flexible, bespoke career progression courses and vocational taster sessions.

    Vision West Nottinghamshire College – employer-led units of sector-specific qualifications and skills.

    Derby College – employer-led bite-sized courses and flexible individual learning pathways.

    University of Derby – employer-led short courses focused on higher and technical skills.

  • Grads for D2N2

    Through the project, SMEs in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire can access support to benefit from the wealth of graduate talent in the area and grow their own graduate talent through higher and degree apprenticeships. The project consortium is also working with local SMEs to make sure that students graduate ‘work ready’ with the high level technical and vocational skills that SMEs need to grow and thrive.

    Support available for SMEs includes:

    • Grants for SMEs to employ graduates.
    • Employer-led work experience opportunities including project placements and internships.
    • Help for SMEs to benefit from vocational routes to accessing graduate-level talent including higher and degree apprenticeships – ‘grow your own’ graduates.
    • Help for SMEs to assess and understand their high level skills needs, now and in the future.

    How will SMEs benefit?

    • Get help to tackle skills shortages and skills gaps by recruiting and retaining ‘work ready’ graduates with relevant, high level skills.
    • ‘Grow your own’ graduates through vocational routes such as higher and degree apprenticeships.
    • Benefit from graduate talent in the region through employer-led work experience placements and internships.
    • Work with local universities and colleges to make sure graduates understand the wealth of career opportunities available in SMEs in the region.

    The project consortium includes Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham College, Vision West Nottinghamshire College, Derby College, the University of Derby and Nottingham City Council. Through the consortium, SMEs can access a range of support including:

    Nottingham Trent University – specialist support to recruit and retain graduates and employer-led work experience placements.

    University of Derby– match funding to employ graduate interns and paid work experience placements at no cost to participating SMEs.

    Derby College – support to benefit from higher and degree apprenticeships and employer-led work experience placements.

    Vision West Nottinghamshire College– training to prepare SMEs for sustainable staff development and support to benefit from higher and degree apprenticeships.

    Nottingham College – employer-focused further education, employer-led work experience placements and support for SMEs to integrate students and graduates into the work environment.

    Nottingham City Council – support to benefit from higher and degree apprenticeships through the award-winning Nottingham Jobs Team and signposting to funding available.

Featured events

High Level Skills - Soft Launch Event

28 November 2018
Nottingham Trent University invites key stakeholders in delivery of SME support in the D2N2 area to the partnership launch of two European Social Fund (ESF) projects; Priority Skills for D2N2 SMEs and Grads for D2N2.

Full programme of events for SMEs

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.

Contact our team

Support is available to businesses until 2020. If you’re interested in accessing this support or would like to know more, please email

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

Still need help?

High Skills delivery team
+44 (0)115 848 8899