Friday, August 19, 2016

News: Latest round of £2.5m Skills & Opportunities Fund opens

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Local projects aimed at boosting enterprise and self-employment are being targeted for support as part of a £2.5m fund set up by NatWest and The RBS Group.

The Skills & Opportunities Fund saw the banking group commit £2.5m last year to fund projects in charities, social enterprises, community groups, state-funded schools and colleges across the UK and Ireland. It is dedicated to supporting projects in disadvantaged communities that help people to help themselves by learning new skills, getting into the world of work or setting up their own business.

A further allocation of £2.5m is being split across two rounds in 2016 and applications to the fund are being invited as the latest round opens today (August 19). Eligible organisations can apply for up to £35,000 each.

From over 2,700 entries and 270 shortlisted organisations, the bank has supported 163 organisations since the fund opened in May 2015.

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Seven regions have their own decision making boards in order to distribute the funds. Although all regions will be looking to fund projects that enable people to help themselves, each will have differing priorities recognising regional differences.

Richard Topliss, ‎managing director at RBS Corporate Banking, North of England and chair of the North Board, explained: "For this round the North Board have focused on two specific areas of activity. Firstly, we want to fund projects that help people investigate self-employment and start their own business. We also want to support projects that aim to improve the financial education of disadvantaged people to help them manage their personal finances more effectively."

A shortlist of projects being considered for funding in each region will be published later in the year. Voting will then be open to the public and the outcome of the public vote will be taken into consideration by the regional judging panels.

Previous projects securing funding include AALFY in Sheffield (pictured), a social enterprise running the Learn|Create|Sell project - a creative and practical course for the unemployed. It is a collaboration with Hantu, a Sheffield-based fashion label. Each participant will be taught the skills to produce a commercial product on a laser cutter and a shop will then launch their start-up business.

Action for Business Ltd secured funding last year to help budding entrepreneurs in Bradford West set up sustainable companies through their Carlisle Business Centre. The funding goes towards a project aimed at maximising the entrepreneurial potential of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities.

Skills & Opportunities Fund website

Images: AALFY


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