The Skills Funding Agency (SFA) is working on Greater Manchester’s behalf to develop and launch calls for European Social Fund (ESF) funded projects. The first two of these contracts, the "GM Skills for Employment Pilot Programme" and the "GM NEET Participation & Skills Progression Programme", are now live. Greater Manchester, like other LEPs, has encountered delays launching further ESF calls, however three more GM calls are planned to be released within the next few weeks and we should see further details before the end of this month.
The new calls will aim at "GM Skills Support for the Workforce" covering basic, intermediate, higher skills and those faced with redundancy:
- GM Access to Higher Level Skills for unemployed and economically inactive individuals
- GM Careers Education Information, Advice and Guidance for Young People and Adults
These calls will be issued via the SFA’s Bravo procurement website. A further ESF call on starting and growing a business for individuals in GM is currently being developed and will be consulted on via the GMCA website. SFA ESF-funded contracts will be for a minimum of 18 months and must finish by March 2018 when the SFA will cease to operate as a national ESF Co-Financing Organisation.
A contract outcome is expected in June / July 2016 on the Building Better Opportunities call issued by the Big Lottery Fund. This call aims to engage and support those disadvantaged people aged 25 years and over who are furthest from the labour market, to enable them to overcome barriers to employment and social exclusion.
The ESF Managing Authority (DWP) confirmed on 1st March 2016 that Trafford Council, on behalf of the GMCA, has secured ESF Co-Financing Organisation (CFO) status. Greater Manchester can now apply for a significant proportion of its ESF allocation in one or more ‘block’ requests which then place Greater Manchester in control of processes to commission, contract and manage ESF activity itself provided it can find eligible match funding. The first phase of ESF funding which Greater Manchester is applying for will support the Working Well Expansion Programme.