Budget 2021: training support for SMEs

The Chancellor announced two schemes at the Budget to provide business school standard management training and discounts for software for SMEs

The government will offer a new UK-wide management programme to upskill 30,000 SMEs in the UK over three years, known as Help to Grow: Management. This has been developed in partnership with industry and the programme will combine a national curriculum delivered through business schools with practical case studies and mentoring from experienced business professionals.

Over 12 weeks, and 90% subsidised by government, this programme will equip SMEs with the tools to grow their businesses and improve their management skills.

As part of the government’s wider programme to scale up digital investment and improve productivity, the second scheme is Help to Grow: Digital.

The government will launch a new UK-wide scheme in the autumn to help 100,000 SMEs save time and money by adopting productivity-enhancing software, transforming the way they do business. This will combine a voucher covering up to half of the costs of approved software up to a maximum of £5,000, and free impartial advice, delivered through an online platform.

Steve Cox, Head of Accountancy, IRIS Software Group, said: ‘The introduction of the Help to Grow Digital scheme is a prominent sign of the direction of travel. HMRC’s vision to be the most digital advanced tax administrators (via MTD) has now been rightly moved into a wider business campaign which will help companies – and the professional service providers that serve them - build better customer relationships and increase revenue.

 ‘This will fuel the continued move to a digital economy, improving productivity while automatically remaining compliant and efficient. The pandemic has caused utter mayhem over the past year but out of it, we are starting to see a smarter and more innovative approach to business.’

RSM welcomed the scheme that will provide access to management training, technology advice and discounted software to encourage more companies to adopt technology. However, the firm warned that the success of the scheme is dependent on the government sticking to its earlier commitment of delivering 85% fast broadband coverage to the UK.

Chris Knowles, chief digital officer at RSM said: ‘The announcement of the Help to Grow scheme is well intended, and any government support for regional business to improve digital skills and productivity is to be welcomed. However, despite a number of infrastructure funding announcements there was no mention of the government’s previous stated commitment to invest £5bn in national broadband rollout by 2025. Back in December we learned that only part of this funding might be available and that the target date was probably unachievable. For businesses in all regions to take advantage of productivity-boosting cloud technology they must have access to fast broadband or reliable 5G.

‘Driving SME productivity is not just about management skills and digital awareness. It is about access to digital infrastructure, availability of technology skills in the market as well as access to investment financing.  £520m of additional funding to support SME growth through management support, technology advice and software discounts is helpful, but we encourage the government to address all factors which contribute to SME growth and productivity.’


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