A pioneering £800,000 training fund has been launched to help to boost the innovation skills of hundreds of senior managers in the Birmingham area.

The Director Development Programme (DDP), funded by the Learning and Skills Council’s Train to Gain service and delivered by Business Link in the West Midlands, will provide funding to help bosses improve management, leadership, communication and creativity.

Companies employing between five and 249 people can tap into an initial £500 for one-on-one coaching and mentoring from specialist advisers, to boost efficiency and profitability.

Fred Bentley, the driving force behind the initiative, said: “There is non-stop talk about workforce development and getting the most out of staff, but this message does not seem to be adopted at the very top with little training undertaken by the senior management team – this is what we are trying to put right.

“Lack of time, money and the wrong type of courses have all been mentioned as potential barriers for people taking part and this information has been used to tailor a bespoke service for bosses in the region. The Director Development Programme offers a mix of informal and formal training and senior managers receive £500 towards the cost. If they match this, we will increase funding to £1,000, more than doubling personal development benefits.”

Backed by specialist advisers, the initiative starts with an on-site skills assessment for the director before a mentor works with them on identifying and agreeing a Personal Development Plan.

This will look at short and long-term objectives and map out a realistic and flexible programme for individuals to boost skills without taking their eyes off day-to-day activity.

“It’s one thing knowing the type of training you need, it is another thing altogether trying to find the right provider,” added Mr Bentley. “We have put together a high-quality register of suppliers, who share a proven track record of working with small and medium-sized enterprises and understand the pressures these businesses face.

“Once the development plan is in place, we will use this list to identify potential partners and it will be down to the company to decide which one suits best.”

Whilst training is linked to the performance of the business, the personal development opportunities include anything from professional qualifications such as MBAs or accreditation with the IoD, to support with innovation.

There is also one-on-one mentoring available for lifestyle coaching, entrepreneurship and project management skills, with the emphasis on creating a long-term commitment to continuous improvement.

“If we can get people at the very top of SMEs realising the value of personal development then everyone at the company will benefit from the knowledge being passed down and a stronger desire for everyone to upskill.”