ALMOST £7m of funding has been secured to provide free skills training for almost 4,000 adults across the Tees Valley.

The Skills Support for the Workforce (SSW) programme has been developed to upskill employees in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) across the Tees Valley over the next two years and is co-financed by the European Social Fund (ESF) - an EU fund to help local areas stimulate economic development through skills and job creation.

SSW will provide fully funded qualifications and training courses, tailored to help meet individual businesses’ skills needs to help increase productivity and encourage growth.

The programme will focus on delivering skills training to support the egion's key priority sectors; advanced manufacturing and engineering, energy, retail, construction, services and business services, as well as digital.

The training will be delivered by Calderdale College in partnership with a range of specialist, regional training providers and includes leadership and management training, team working and vocational qualifications, technical skills, as well as basic skills training including literacy and numeracy.

Helen Howland, head of skills support for the workforce programmes in Tees Valley, said: “This funding can make a real difference to the businesses and people who live and work across the region.

“Significant growth is anticipated in the key sectors over the next year, creating new jobs, but many of these will require higher level technical, scientific and digital skills as well as managerial skills.

“This funding means we can provide residents in Tees Valley with the right qualifications to stay in work and access more flexible career paths whilst meeting the needs of businesses to have a workforce with multiple skill sets.”

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said: “For our region to succeed, our residents must be equipped with the skills that businesses are crying out for, especially those in our key sectors.

“The Skills Support for the Workforce programme is another strand in helping our residents into fulfilling careers while backing the entrepreneurs, innovators and job creators that are the lifeblood of the Tees Valley.

"We can help our SMEs grow, which will boost our economy and deliver jobs."