BIDs team up to launch free skills courses for lockdown-hit businesses


The Bradford district’s three BIDs have joined forces for the first time to launch a unique scheme to help businesses and their staff get ready to bounce back from the Covid-19 lockdown.


The Business Improvement Districts in Bradford city centre, Ilkley and Keighley have teamed up with Virtual College to offer levy-payers a range of free and discounted online courses to help owners and staff learn new skills to boost their businesses.


Ilkley-based Virtual College, a world-leading e-learning provider, was launched in 1995 to use new technology to enhance traditional approaches to training. It pioneered use of the internet to deliver training at a time, place and pace to suite the learner and now has more than 145 employees who have delivered courses to more than four million learners in 70 countries.


Bradford BID manager Jonny Noble said: “Bradford’s district BIDs are in constant contact and liaise with each other all the time to share best practice and swap ideas to benefit our levy-payers.


“We know that #TogetherBradfordCan and with the shared problems all our members have with recovering from the pandemic restrictions, it made absolute sense to work together on a project which could have a big impact on helping businesses to get back to their best when the measures are eased and we think the courses on offer from Virtual College will be a very effective way to help achieve that.”


The project is initially being launched as a pilot to ascertain take up and to make sure all of the BIDs and their levy-payers are benefitting from any investment that they choose to make in extending the scheme in the future.


The manager of Ilkley BID, Helen Rhodes, said the reduced activity forced by the lockdown was the perfect time for businesses at all levels to develop skills.


“The sector split and numbers of businesses may be different across the three BID areas but there is a joint appetite for upskilling business owners and their staff,” she said. “Whilst differentiation against the competition has always been important, more than ever businesses are going to need to be able to stand out from the crowd.


“This, together with the acknowledgment that businesses of all sizes are now recognising the need for a good digital presence, means this is an ideal time to look at learning new skills. Coming together with the BIDs from Keighley and Bradford and with Virtual College has enabled us to run this pilot and if the response is good, I hope that this is something we will build on as a joint initiative.”


Paul Howarth, the Keighley BID manager, said: “We are delighted to be involved in this pilot aimed at helping our town and city centre businesses in their recovery and it is a pleasure to be working with the other district BIDs in Bradford and Ilkley and Virtual College in establishing this project.


“Now more than ever, businesses need to be working together, sharing best practice and using the time to refresh their skills or learn something new and we are confident this will go some way to helping achieve that.”


Free learning courses available to businesses include: a suite of Digital Business Skill courses; Mental Health and Well Being Resource Pack and an Infection Prevention and Control Resource Pack.


There are also new e-learning courses set up for food businesses who wish to move to home deliveries: Home Deliveries for Food Businesses (aimed at employees); and Setting up your Business for Food Delivery (aimed at employers).


Rod Knox, Chief Executive of Virtual College, said: “As an established Ilkley business, we are delighted to working in partnership on this initiative with other local business members across Bradford, Keighley and Ilkley.


“As a digital learning provider our aim is to create digital learning solutions which allow people, organisations and communities to succeed and flourish. At this challenging time for many businesses, we are pleased to be able to provide support to our district’s BID members to continue to develop their employees’ skills, keep them connected and engaged ready for the next set of challenges.


“Developing employees’ skills will enable businesses to be ready for the short-term and build resilience for the medium-term. As businesses start to adapt and prepare to return to a workplace that may look and feel significant different, this extensive range of online learning will offer flexibility of learning at a time and place that suits the learner.”


Levy-payers can sign up for the courses here using this online address: https://bidslearning.vc-enable.co.uk/register

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