How to upskill your organisation to make it innovation ready

Sinclair Brown
Innovation Specialist | innovate2succeed
13th July 2017

We hear from small businesses each year, telling us that creating time and resources to invest in training and development is often a challenge. But there are some things you can consider to help with this process. One that is crucial to upskilling is a regular review of the skills and qualifications your organisation needs.

Upskilling can also be built into a business. For instance, having a regular appraisal with staff is a good time to consider development needs for the next year, but also enables you to learn more about what your company already has. 

Also, align business needs with the employee's aims if possible. It's good for the organisation's morale to have employees supported and motivated to develop their own programmes where there is no dedicated organisation resource. 

Failing to upskill alongside your competitors can leave your business falling behind. Social media, websites, newsletters and emails are an easy way of keeping up to date with what is happening around you, and can help determine the skills required.

What skills are most in demand 

LinkedIn reports that technical abilities were the skills most in demand by recruiters in 2016. 

We have seen the skills shortages across many industry sectors in recent years - with massive skills gaps in sectors such as IT, manufacturing and engineering. Many organisations say that they can't find the right people to fill key posts, especially in more technical occupations.  

The Institution of Mechanical Engineers says part of the reason for this in industrial sectors was the shelving of graduate and apprenticeship schemes in the 80s and 90s. Now there are some movements from the larger employers, such as Jaguar Land Rover and Network Rail, in re-establishing these programmes to bring in and develop their own talent each year.  

The Government has also conceded there is a critical need to provide a higher skilled route for technical occupations.

Softer skills training

Often overlooked, more than half of UK employers recruiting new staff now say this is a major deficiency in new candidates, along with English and Maths competencies.

Today softer skills, such as communications and planning skills, are an important part of many employees' required skill sets in both consumer and industrial roles. 

Remember to build these skills into your development programmes where possible to support your organisation's overall performance.

Below are a few programmes you can use to upskill your business.


Apprenticeships are generally aimed at new starters, however, can work for existing employees as well. But these too are in the process of significant changes.

Apprenticeship Frameworks are government funded, which varies depending upon the age of the apprentice and the size of the employer.

The funding, qualifications and assessment are managed by the training provider, typically FE colleges or private providers.

Apprentices at 16-18 are normally fully funded, whereas an employer funding contribution is required in other cases e.g. where the apprentice is 19 and over, and for larger employers. 

Apprenticeship frameworks and funding are in the process of being phased out over the next two to three years and are being replaced by Apprenticeship Standards - with a new funding and assessment approach.

The government has its own website dedicated to apprenticeships. publishes a list of apprenticeship frameworks that you can review.

European Structural and Investment Fund Skills Training for Employees

When looking to upskill those already in employment, schemes like apprenticeships might not be the best for your company or staff. But there are schemes available to those who wish to adapt their team for any upcoming challenges. 

Funding programmes designed to upskill more established employees, who don't have the level of skills needed to progress in their role, are available from time to time - often funded through Local Enterprise Partnerships via European funding sources.

These can often fund certificate or diploma level qualification (i.e. to GCSE - level 2, or A level - level 3) depending on the sector, employee ages and previous qualifications.  

Typical qualifications may include Team Leading, Customer Service, Business Administration, Logistics, Hospitality - subject to the local area identified priorities.

Heart of the South West LEP offer more information on European Structural and Investment Funds.

Skills West

The West of England has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country, meaning it is often a struggle for businesses to find employees with the right skills. Skills West is a free, impartial service that will help to identify and tackle skills gaps in your business

Whether you are looking to take on an apprentice, upskill your existing staff, or attract new staff with the right skills and knowledge, its advisers will signpost you in the right direction. 

Skills West provides advice on: 

  • New apprenticeship standards and funding, covering 90 per cent of training costs
  • Identifying your skills and training needs
  • The best training solutions for your business
  • Relevant training providers
  • How to attract and retain the best people
  • How to raise the profile of your employment opportunities 

The service is a partnership with the Western Training Provider Network and local and national training providers. The programme is funded by the European Social Fund and Education & Skills Funding Agency and commissioned by the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership.

These projects will allow your company to move forward in different ways when addressing any skills concerns you might have. With the help of government funding, it can also be relatively cheap but add considerable value once the training is completed. 

  • Strategic support to help your business grow

    Our innovation specialists will help you identify barriers to innovation and growth, and help you enhance your innovation capabilities to achieve business growth.

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  • Take a look at our case studies for the innovate2succeed programme.

  • "The support in terms of help, guidance and advice from the innovate2Succeed programme has been outstanding. Windhorse has received help understanding the funds that may be available to our new business."

    Phillip Harrall, Windhorse Aerospace Limited