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Opinion Piece – Building Back a Better Skilled Workforce – Roisin McKee, HATS Project Director

Posted 11 Oct, 2020

Opinion Piece – Building Back a Better Skilled Workforce

We have a unique opportunity to reset the status quo when it comes to skills and professional development. Building back with a better skilled workforce, whose attributes and behaviours are valued and nurtured will provide the much needed reinforcement to deliver a tourism product that attracts visitors and encourages repeat business.

And we don’t need to wait until the pandemic is over to begin. There are a number of support packages available now to help businesses retain talent through this difficult time and develop the skills needed for the future.

[Skills Focus scheme] Fully funded training to support businesses with less than 250 employees: Tailored to the needs of the business, this initiative aims to increase the skills levels of the existing workforce to level 2 and above qualifications. Working in partnership with a local college, businesses have the opportunity to identify the skills they require and secure a tailored and fully funded training solution to meet their need.

Find out more here

[Innovateus scheme] Fully funded bespoke mentoring support for businesses with less than 50 employees: Supporting business growth, this programme, also available through a local college, provides up to 60 hours fully funded mentoring in a number of key areas including digital transformation.

Find out more here

For employers that have been benefiting from apprenticeships, the government recently announced a valuable support package to help businesses retain apprentices through the pandemic.


Find out more here


The Apprenticeship Return, Retain and Result Scheme helps employers return apprentice(s) from furlough and retain them. Businesses can claim incentive payments to support the return, retention and result for apprentices. A maximum of £3,700 is available per apprentice, as follows:

  • Return - £500 per returned furloughed apprentice payable for the first full month of paid apprenticeship from 1 November 2020
  • Retain – maximum of £2,000 available: £500 per month for up to 4 months of paid apprenticeship between 1 December 2020 and 31 March 2021
  • Result - £1,200 for successful full framework achievement of a returned furloughed apprentice

For those that are in a position to take people on, or are looking at developing the skills of their existing teams there is also a new scheme offering a £3000 incentive for any new apprenticeship opportunity created from 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2021. This is open to both new and existing employees, however, to qualify an existing employee must be starting a new job role that requires a substantial amount of learning and skills development which must be fully detailed.

The incentive payments are split into two phases; £2,000 after 90 days retention and a further £1,000 after 200 days retention from first employment.

These measures are a very welcome start – however we’ve called for them to be expanded to cover all-age apprenticeships rather than just for those 16-24. Age shouldn’t be a barrier to progressing professional development so we’ll be continuing to press on this change to government.

I’d encourage all businesses to take advantage of the support and incentives on offer through these schemes. A skilled workforce beyond Covid is critical to the future success of the industry and as we build back, we need to build back better with skilled people that help grow businesses and a culture that fosters professional development.

For more information or advice then get in touch by emailing us info@nitourismalliance.com