The Governments Help to Grow scheme seeks to address some areas of the digital skills shortage that the UK is facing and in turn, limit the impact on economic growth.
All growing businesses need digital skills. You simply cannot reach and serve new customers without an online presence or scalable business software. Your employees can’t do their jobs without digital collaboration tools. And without cyber security skills or advice you can’t be confident that your business won’t be the target of an intentional or random cyber attack.
Few details of the scheme are available yet, but we do know that the scheme will be divided in two parts:
Help to Grow: Management
This part of the scheme provides SMEs with access to management training, delivered by 'leading business schools…with key modules covering financial management, innovation and digital adoption'. Available to businesses with between 5 and 249 employees, the government will subsidise 90 per cent of the costs leaving participants to pay only £750.
Help to Grow: Digital
Through this initiative, SMEs will be able to get 50 per cent off the costs of online (cloud) business software up to £5,000, together with free advice on how to deploy and use it. The type of software eligible isn’t yet entirely clear, but it is 'initially expected' to include CRM, e-commerce and financial accounting cloud software. Company size criteria are the same as above.
The scheme has the potential to impact more than 99 per cent of private companies in the UK, based on employee numbers, so qualifying companies should register their interest in the scheme. You can also sign up here to further guidance and advice from RSM as soon as more details become available.
Help to Grow is the first step towards practical and financial assistance for growing businesses within the digital economy. The scheme will not solve the broader skills shortage issue alone, which at the most basic of levels, starts with the education of younger people, to ensure they are gaining valuable digital skills early on.
Also essential to solving the bigger, longer-term challenges is rapid investment in digital infrastructure, including super-fast broadband and 5G, along with a regulatory framework and international agreements which allow secure data transfer with other countries post-Brexit.
The measure of success for the scheme will be in the quality and take-up of the training and support provided through the Management element , and the extent of support available through the Digital element to ensure successful deployment of online software to participating SMEs. Businesses will need to pay as much – if not more – attention to how they deploy CRM or finance software as to what software they buy in the first place.