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High Level Skills for SMEs

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

Attendees at the project launch event

The High Level Skills programme offers dedicated support, advice and funding to help you up-skill 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 work as part of the High Level Skills consortium to deliver this programme which also includes Derby College, Nottingham College, the University of Derby and Nottingham City Council.

This programme aims to help you grow as a business by creating a more diverse, creative and productive workforce through our two complementary projects, which are:

To find out more and for details on the offer from NTU and our partners, download our programme brochure.

Priority Skills for D2N2 SMEs

NTU currently offer three fully-funded course to employees of SMEs:

  • Women in Leadership is a three-day course which is designed to help women in SMEs to develop their careers and their capability to manage and lead
  • Sustainability and Inclusive Leadership (SAIL) is a three-day course focusing on increase climate literacy and sustainability in local SMEs, and how this is connected to COVID-19 recovery.
  • Practical Marketing Skills is a four-day course accredited at level 3 for business owners, managers and employees of SMEs to increase their marketing knowledge, promote their products and services, and grow their reputation.

Find out more about our courses.

Santa Brice, Creative Lead at The Treat Kitchen

GRADS for D2N2

The GRADS for D2N2 project provides small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with 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, this project can help you access the support, advice and funding to plug skills gaps, achieve more, and grow your business. Our support includes:

  • Free organisational needs assessments and action plans to address your skills and talent needs
  • Employability support, advice and workshops to help recruit and retain quality staff
  • £1,000 talent grants to fund a graduate placement
  • Support to access higher and degree apprenticeships through advice, support and workshops
  • Putting your voice at the heart of the NTU curriculum through co-design

Find out more about GRADS for D2N2.

Case studies and news articles

Following a pilot earlier this summer, Nottingham Business School is pleased to announce course dates for this new accredited short course from September 2020.

Women in Leadership: Claire Lowe from Hopkins Solicitors

5 June 2020

Claire Lowe, personal injury solicitor at Hopkins Solicitors shares her experience of NTU's Women in Leadership course.

Women in Leadership: Helen Everitt from Snugg Yoga

13 May 2020

Helen Everitt, founder of Snugg Yoga and senior account manager at Tank shares her experience of NTU's Women in Leadership course.

Businesses to receive apprenticeship support at first Nottingham Apprenticeship Conference

29 January 2020

As part of National Apprenticeship Week, the event at Trent Bridge Cricket Ground on Thursday 6 February is being run in conjunction with Nottingham College and Nottingham Jobs and will bring together businesses from across all sectors and industries.

View all stories about the High Level Skills programme

Upcoming events and courses

EVENT: Voices of diverse SMEs: Improving the labour market relevance of education and training systems

17 November 2020, 9 – 10.30am

The HLS programme supports lifelong learning, local SMEs to grow their skills and talent, and supports improvement of the labour market relevance of education and training systems. We do this by putting SME voice at the heart of our support programme and course design.

We invite local education providers from Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire and strategic partners to join us at this event. You will hear what over 500 SMEs have told us they need, the support we have been providing, and what difference this has made.

This virtual event will enable you to hear key messages from both SMEs and the data we have captured. It will enable other providers and partners to consider what changes may be needed in their own curriculum development to further improve the labour market relevance of local education and training systems.

Registrations for this event will open w/c 21 September. Enquiries can be directed to

COURSE: Practical Marketing Skills short course

Dates available in October and November 2020

A course targeted at business owners, managers and employees of SMEs who want to increase their marketing knowledge, promote their products and services, and grow their reputation.

Find out more and express your interest in the course.

COURSE: Sustainability and Inclusive Leadership short course

Dates available in September and October 2020

COVID-19 has thrown us into a state of disarray, adversely impacting our lives and the economy. As we emerge from this challenging time, we need to revisit the climate crisis – which is still one of the greatest challenges that will go on affecting all aspects of business and society unless we take action.

Find out more and express your interest in the course.

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 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

For more information, download the programme brochure.

Still need help?

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