Growth fund bids pushed to lift horticulture sector skills

Sector skills council Lantra is urging professional bodies from the agriculture and horticulture sectors to apply for a share of a £50m Government fund to boost employee skills before the 3 June deadline.

Speaking at the Green Skills seminar in London last week, national director Madge Moore highlighted the Growth & Innovation Fund (GIF) - worth £25m a year until 2013.

The programme was designed to help organisations develop and implement long-term training strategies such as continuing professional development programmes for employees.

The fund, run by the UK Commission for Employment & Skills and the Skills Funding Agency, is made up of three strands under which applications can be made: best market solutions; national skills academies; and joint investment programmes.

Trade associations, professional and sector bodies, employer and training organisations and sector skills councils can apply to the fund. Moore maintained that the money could help to kick-start more training initiatives in the sector.

"The overarching aim is to get employers to start to look at what skills interventions they can implement that will lead them to invest in long-term training, even when the funding is no longer there," she said. "We want to see it used to drive up professional skills in the sector and support the delivery of the agri-skills strategy."

Moore confirmed that Lantra had entered a bid for part of a £5m "precursor" pot to help fund support work with industry bodies on developing strong applications for the GIF.

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