Raising Aspirations for All: Project call in Stoke & Staffordshire LEP area (OC32S19P1712)

Call to run a project to help employed people to gain basic skills, improve the capacity of SMEs and micro businesses and support business growth in the Stoke & Staffordshire LEP area.


Through this call the Managing Authority is seeking project(s) to deliver:

  • Activities that seek to address the barriers relating to rural isolation which prevent access to initiatives and opportunities that are more easily available in urban environments
  • Activities that work in collaboration with activity provided by partner agencies such as the Careers and Enterprise Company and Department for Work and Pensions.
  • Activities that focus on the brokerage of opportunities between learners in the work place and employers to ensure that they have the work skills that employers need in particular:

Strand 1 – Upskilling the workforce to include ICT/Digital Skills

  • Deliver skills provision which offers both accredited and non-accredited skills training which is innovative and responsive to local skills needs. Provision will normally be accredited but where suitable accredited provision does not exist, bespoke packages may be delivered (applicants will need to evidence qualifications delivered are full or units of level 2 or 3).
  • Work with providers to increase the number of opportunities for industry placements each year through raising awareness of the quality of the T Level qualification.
  • Support businesses to structure placements, internships and apprenticeships in a way that best suits their business model and increases perceived benefits for both business, students and employees i.e. block, day release or a combination of both.
  • Close partnership working with established training providers, business support providers and networks including the Growth Hub and Skills Hub.

  • Foster an aspirational, digital and enterprising culture in SMEs.
  • Develop and provide taster courses and work based access courses which are innovative and focus on promoting the uptake of the new digital curriculum.
  • Support the progression of those already employed in digital/tech firms who need up-skilling/re-skilling to progress at work.
  • Support specialist industry specific digital skills where this supports a gap with the employer.

Strand 2 – Graduate Retention

  • The activity should focus on the brokerage of opportunities between learners and employers to ensure that they have the work ready skills that employers need.
  • Funding can also be used to cover the additional costs of specific modules (additional to the core credit-bearing element of higher education programmes) designed to prepare under-graduates and graduates for employment or self-employment. Clear reasoning must be given as to why particular groups of students have been identified for this (e.g. from disadvantaged areas or for particular skills shortage roles) and the added value and impact that this activity will have with them.

Strand 3 – Improving placement opportunities for Apprenticeships and T Levels

  • Business mentoring/peer to peer support to develop practical solutions to barriers and as part of this consider the use of the Government’s Apprenticeship Levy transfer option where this is seen as beneficial to both parties.
  • Locally tailored solutions and flexible delivery to meet the skills and Apprenticeship priorities of employers and employees.
  • Training a mentor in the company to support apprentices.
  • Engagement activity to increase the progression to/from intermediate, advanced, higher and degree level apprenticeships within the business.
  • Delivery of business advice and support, which can use previous analysis of skills within the business to suggest ways in which apprenticeships can be used to fill identified skills gaps.
  • Bespoke training for employers to increase their knowledge of the work which will need to be carried out as part of an apprenticeship to support their staff towards completion.
  • Support with recruitment of apprentices, possibly through a localised brokerage service.
  • Long-term mentoring and support for businesses throughout an apprentice’s qualification.
  • Work with providers to increase the number of opportunities for industry placements each year through raising awareness of the quality of the qualification.
  • Broker opportunities for young people to engage in industry placements as part of T Level requirements and related activities within SMEs.
  • Support businesses to structure placements in a way that best suits their business model and increases perceived benefits for both business and student i.e. block, day release.
  • Support providers and industry placement employers to access and apply for relevant funding including the Capacity Development Fund.

Strand 4 – Supported Employment opportunities

  • Training and resources to enable SMEs to effectively and positively manage staff with disabilities including training for managers.
  • Tailored courses offered flexibly to enable those with disabilities to gain the tools and confidence to progress in work to senior positions. Packages should include training in how to navigate the workplace confidently, combat existing structures, processes or behaviours that mitigate against disabled people progressing and to strengthen leadership potential. This may include coaching, mentoring and peer to peer support as well as individual or group training sessions.
  • Work with people with disabilities to raise aspirations. Activities to focus on supporting people with disabilities to aim higher in their career aspirations, and support them to identify new opportunities and gain skills that will enable them to progress. Packages must be evidence based and properly evaluated.
  • Activities to broker opportunities and support employers to employ those with disabilities as a barrier to work.
  • Activities to support employers to create more opportunities for working interviews including elements of work tasters, work experience and permanent positions.

For more information, download the call specification.


The project must cover the Stoke-on-Trent & Staffordshire LEP area.


Approximately £2,022,000.00 of ESF is available.


Full application deadline: 09 March 2020

Completion date

Projects must be completed no later than 3 years and 6 months after the proposed project start date, however the ESF Managing Authority reserves the right to vary the maximum duration in exceptional circumstances. All ESF Projects must be completed by 31st December 2023. Project costs cannot be incurred beyond this date.

Full Application Submission

To apply for funding under this call you will need to complete and submit your Full Application via the ECLAIMS IT System.

Please note: the ECLAIMS IT System can only be access from within the UK.

Full Applications submitted in the ECLAIMS IT System after the call closing date shown above and on the call specification will not be appraised.

If you do not already have access to the ECLAIMS IT system, please request an ‘ECLAIMS External Access Form’ by emailing E.CLAIMSSUPPORT@dwp.gov.uk

You will need to request an External Access Form for each person in your organisation who requires access.

It is your responsibility to ensure you request and activate your ECLAIMS access in sufficient time. We strongly advise that you obtain and activate your ECLAIMS access at least 2 weeks prior to the advertised call closure date, if not sooner.

You are also advised to read the details in the call specification in order to produce an application that complies with the requirements and meets the needs set out in the ESF Operational Programme. All this information, the related guidance and the European Social Fund Operational Programme can be found from our homepage.

The published ESF Online Full Application Guidance also provides step-by-step advice on how to complete your Full Application using the ECLAIMS IT system. ESF Online Full Application Guidance.

Technical Support

If you encounter any technical difficulties completing or submitting your Full Application via the ECLAIMS IT system, please send an email to E.CLAIMSSUPPORT@dwp.gov.uk

The technical support operating hours are Monday to Friday, from 8am to 6pm and it is your responsibility to ensure you seek and technical advice in sufficient time to complete and submit your Full Application before the published call closure date.

The Managing Authority reserves the right to reject applications which are incomplete or not submitted in a timely and compliant way.

Contact details

If you have any questions about the Call Specification or ESF Online Full Application Guidance, please contact esf.2014-2020@dwp.gov.uk. This address should not be used to request technical support.

Published 16 December 2019