A NEW £3 million training fund is being established to help develop skills and employment opportunities to drive forward the Ayrshire economy.

The Ayrshire Skills Investment Fund (ASIF) is seen as a vital Ayrshire Growth Deal project that will provide a welcome boost for employers and residents who are faced with challenging economic times.

Recent economic studies have shown that Ayrshire has remained persistently behind other regions in Scotland - and doing more of the same should not be an option.

The project – which is being funded by the Scottish Government -   will complement the already-established ‘Working for a Healthy Economy Fund’ which is supporting people to improve their health to allow them to either secure or sustain employment.

ASIF is aimed at helping employers grow and develop their employees , recruit new employees and increase skills for residents. Opportunities are linked to growth sectors and employment opportunities, with the objectives of reducing unemployment and increasing productivity.

It will support skills development, where funding currently does not exist.  This will fund the gaps and develop the skills needed to support regional, inclusive, economic growth.

A grant programme will be put in place to develop training provision to support employers to address skills gaps and will accelerate and support inclusive economic growth.

Councillor Douglas Reid, chair of the Ayrshire Joint Committee, said: “We have a real ambition and determination to grow the economy but to do that we must address the skills gap.

“It is all very well investing in big projects, but we have to have the personnel in place and ready to deliver the work. Currently there is a gap, but we are working hard to bridge it. 

“There are sectors where demand already exists - including manufacturing, space, visitor economy, construction and care – and we will be also looking at developing skills in emerging sectors including advanced manufacturing, clean growth and digital.

“We also want to reach those disadvantaged groups; females, young people, disabled, those with health issues – who all have something to offer and can play their part too.”

Scottish Government wellbeing economy secretary Neil Gray said: “This fund can help boost sustainable economic growth for the benefit of communities across Ayrshire. It will address inequality with other regions by helping people into secure jobs. 

“We are working to create an economy which is fair, green and growing. This Ayrshire Growth Deal funding will massively expand work opportunities to help tackle the cost of living challenge.”

ASIF will aim to support 500 employed participants and 500 unemployed participants. Another 300 participants will gain an accredited qualification, 300 businesses will receive support to deliver the skills of their workforce and 10 inward investment companies will be able to access skills interventions.

The Ayrshire Growth Deal team has also been working closely with academic institutions to create workforces based on existing and emerging growth sectors.