COMPANIES are to get a £3.5 million boost to develop their staffs’ skills and improve their business performance.

Following European Union backing, Deeside College will lead the Skills for the Workforce programme, which will offer about 2,400 employees of up to 600 small-medium sized enterprises within Flintshire and Wrexham the chance to acquire new skills.

For a £50 per person registration fee, companies can join the scheme to improve their workforce’s skills in areas relating to their business needs.

The businesses do not have to pay anything else for the training they receive through the project.

Training will be at levels one to three and can be used to progress on to programmes such as Modern Apprenticeships.

The Deeside College project will be delivered in collaboration with Yale College, Wrexham and Coleg Llysfasi, near Ruthin, and is backed with £1.5 million from the European Social Fund (ESF) through the Welsh Assembly Government.

WAG Deputy First Minister Ieuan Wyn Jones said: “Developing the skills of the workforce in Wales is crucial to our economic development and success. Only by equipping people with the right knowledge and expertise will we be able to compete with the rest of the world.

“The Skills for the Workforce programme demonstrates how we can use EU funding to help us achieve our commitment to driving Wales forward on the road to economic recovery.

“Our aim is to deliver the skills needed by the sectors that will provide high quality, sustainable jobs for Wales.”

Deputy Minister for Science, Innovation and Skills, Lesley Griffiths, the AM for Wrexham, said: “We are working to secure a high skill future for our country and EU funding provides us with the resources to back our tailor made policies.

“Skills for the Workforce will provide people with the opportunities so they can succeed in the workplace.”

The three year initiative builds on a range of successful ESF projects delivered by Deeside College under the previous Objective Two programme.

David Jones, principal and chief executive of Deeside College, said: “As a regional partnership three colleges will be supporting up to 600 companies in assessing and meeting their training needs.

“This is an excellent example of colleges working together to support the local economy.”