How effective is the government’s ‘Help to Grow’ programme for SMEs?

Written by Kunal Sawhney, CEO, Kalkine

Chancellor Sunak’s pet project ‘Help to grow’ hasn’t received the expected reception from small businesses. Now it is being criticised for not garnering the interest of even ten per cent of the target audience.

There could be many reasons structural to operational, that are hindering the success of a well-thought plan. First, let us understand what it is and for whom it has been conceptualised. The scheme was launched in August last year with a motive to provide leading-edge business training in the fields like financial management and marketing to small and medium-sized businesses. The scheme that has been divided into two parts Help to Grow: Digital and Help to Grow: Management Courses, was applauded by many corporates in the beginning, but later, there were few takers for it, raising doubts over the usability and success of the plan.

What could be the reason for slow take-up?

Businesses across the sectors were invited to join the programme, including social enterprises; the criterion was that the business must be UK based and the programme attendee should be a decision-maker. The other conditions were that the business must be having employee strength of 5-249, and their management should have a minimum of one business link. Charities are not included in the plan.  Also, the programme, which is 90 funded by the HM Government and delivered by the Chartered Association of Business Schools, charges a nominal joining fee of £750.

Though it is yet not confirmed, media houses are reporting that just 2,500 enrollments have been made to date from the targeted 30,000 businesses, with many complaining of the minimum employee strength and red tapes for their exclusion. Also, as charities have been ignored, a large number of organisations are out of the purview of the programme. So, primarily it’s the eligibility criteria that need to be reformed for broader participation.

How helpful can be the programme for SMEs?

Small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) are the lifeblood of the nation’s economy. These SMEs produce almost half of the revenue generated by UK businesses. And their sluggish throughput can be called a major concern for their future growth outlook. Several surveys have revealed a low level of confidence among the SME business leaders who have been facing the unprecedented challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with Brexit.

Time and again importance of good management and leadership have been highlighted for SMEs. Skills like marketing, product management, strategy making, finance and people management are some of the key management skills that can help SMEs grow and expand their horizons to international levels.

Many studies have found that the existing management skills are uneven across SMEs in the country, and it was adversely impacting the overall productivity of the nation. Many of these businesses don’t realise that they need the training to equip themselves better, while many are not even aware of the available support to train them. Also, there are many who are concerned about the cost and the time consumed.

When the UK economy is struggling to return to pre-pandemic levels, focusing on small businesses becomes inevitable, and for them to perform better, training was a well-thought plan. Government’s estimation was that Help to Grow: Management Courses and Help to Grow: Digital would equip the small businesses to innovate and fuel the overall productivity of the country to help them overcome the scars of the pandemic. The slow take-up is the cause of concern for a well-intentioned plan, and a revamp in the eligibility criteria is needed to include all the targeted businesses so they can equally participate in the country’s long-term growth.

About Lisa Baker, Editor 2423 Articles
Lisa Baker is the Editor of Always Finance, and writes about Business, Finance Technology and Healthcare. Lisa is also the owner of Need to See IT Publishing.