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Firstplay look to the future with skills revolution

Skills for Growth team support business in its new training push, as well as boosting staff health and wellbeing

  • 1 job created (apprenticeship)
  • 14 jobs protected
The importance of a well-trained workforce has led to a skills revolution at Stockport-based Firstplay Dietary Foods

Family-run, Stockport-based business, Firstplay Dietary Foods urges Greater Manchester SMEs to think about the importance of workplace training to help employees to reach their full potential as part of Learning at Work Week. The week runs from May 16 to 22, putting the spotlight on the importance and benefits of continual learning and development.

Firstplay Dietary Foods develops and manufactures specialist low protein products, supplying medical centres and hospitals globally, as well as directly to patients, and has seen a positive impact on their business productivity as a direct result of their commitment to staff development.

Skills diagnostic

As part of the company’s post-COVID bounce back, director Tom Fletcher contacted the Skills for Growth – SME Support team at the Growth Company, where he was introduced to skills coach Dominic Kinsella. The programme, commissioned by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, launched in 2020 to help upskill staff, boost productivity and maximise business growth opportunity across the region. It is delivered in partnership between GC Business Growth Hub and the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, with funding from the European Social Fund.

As part of Tom’s introduction to the programme, Skills Coach Dom visited the business and carried out an initial diagnostic, which helped to identify skills gaps and potential growth opportunities.

He created individual Skills Development Plans for four members of the distribution, production, and the accounts team, with two going on to do continuous business improvement techniques training incorporating aspects of LEAN manufacturing processes.

“Tom knew that the most important part of his company’s success was his staff, so he was eager to get up and running with the programme to carry on investing in them,” explains Dominic.

Apprenticeships made easy

Next, Tom began working with a dedicated Skills for Growth apprenticeship specialist, Suzanne McNicholas, who helped him navigate the process of finding and funding an apprentice.

With Suzanne’s help, Tom made a successful application through an apprenticeship levy matchmaking site. The levy is paid by large employers into a central government pot, which smaller businesses can then apply to as a way of funding their own apprenticeships.

Suzanne also provided a step-by-step approach to apply for the government incentive grant for hiring an apprentice of £3000.

With funding secured, the business took on Sadia Naseem to work in the accounts department, where she is now working towards Accounts, level 2 with GC Education & Skills.

Suzanne says: “Tom was keen to start succession planning within the finance department and was looking to bring some one in to work with the existing finance specialist, with a view that they would take over that role in a few years’ time. The business was keen to employ an apprentice as they wanted to mentor and guide someone through their ways of working and offer an opportunity to a local person.”

Boost for workplace wellbeing

As well as professional training, Firstplay has also moved to support their employees’ health and wellbeing. Skills for Growth – SME Support Health and Wellbeing Specialist, Felicity Brown and Maria Mander worked with employees over several months, encouraging them to invest in their own wellness as a way of positively impacting their lives both personally and professionally.

As a result, says Tom, there is a buzz around the company, with new working relationships boosting productivity across the business.

Skills for Growth also introduced the company to the GM Good Employment Charter, a voluntary membership and assessment scheme that aims to raise employment standards across the city region.

“In the last 12 months, since making my first contact with the Skills for Growth team, I have received support with funding, staff training and taking on an apprentice as part of our new growth plan and succession plan,” adds Tom.

“I would encourage anyone running an SME to reach out to Skills for Growth to explore how a collaboration could benefit your business and staff.”


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Skills for Growth - SME Support

Skills for Growth - SME Support

Skills for Growth - SME Support is a fully funded, tailored service to help upskill your employees and improve business productivity.