The leadership of small businesses across the UK is to receive a vital boost thanks to eight projects that received government approval this week, the Association of Plumbing and Heating Contractors (APHC) has said.

Aiming to improve the overall productivity of UK small businesses, so-called anchor institutions will work with the government-backed UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) to boost their entrepreneurship and leadership abilities.

The projects, which are part of the UKCES-run UK Futures Programme, plan, in particular, to help small businesses that haven’t had any leadership or entrepreneurship training, with each anchor institution committed to assisting their local community.

The institutions the UKCES will be working with include chambers of commerce, universities, colleges, councils, enterprise agencies, learning partnerships and business schools, in conjunction with local employers.

Julie Kenny CBE DL, founder of Pyronix Ltd, a small business in the security sector and commissioner at the UKCES, said: “Small businesses form the backbone of the UK economy. Yet constraints on their time and resources mean they are the least likely to develop the leadership and management skills that will help them grow.”

“Owner managers and senior leaders of small companies need to spend their time and money wisely, and see clear benefits from the start.

“Current training programmes are often too broad or vague to be usefully applied in the real world. Simply gaining access to good programmes can also be difficult - for instance if you operate in a more rural area.”

“We need new ways to reach these businesses, and we need solutions that are relevant to each small firm. The anchor institutions we will be working with have demonstrated a strong understanding of the specific issues that small businesses face in their local community. They have also shown that they have the ability to reach out to businesses who often find themselves excluded from national programmes.”

The selected programmes in England and Wales are:

  • Support programme co-created by regional small and medium-sized enterprises in entrepreneurship and leadership skills, led by the Regional Learning Partnership – South West & Central Wales
  • CAPTURED, led by Newcastle University
  • Leadership & Entrepreneurship Advancing Productivity (LEAP), led by the University of Sunderland
  • The Leadership Forge, led by Teesside University
  • Doncaster Leadership & Entrepreneurship Academy, led by Doncaster Council
  • The Leadership Project, led by St Helens Chamber

Each project represents a joint investment with UKCES, with organisations investing in cash, in-kind, or both, alongside a maximum government contribution of £200,000 per project. The total government contribution is £1.3 million.

John Thompson, chief executive of APHC, said: “We welcome the news that small businesses will be able to benefit from essential entrepreneurship and leadership training, which can have such a significant impact on productivity but are often lacking due to the limitations placed on small firms.”