Regional Minister for the West Midlands Ian Austin MP has urged employers to take full advantage of a new £350 million fund to help small companies through the downturn.
Mr Austin said the West Midlands would receive the new money as part of a package of support through the national Train to Gain skills service to help SMEs - businesses employing up to 50 people - through the economic downturn.
Depending on uptake, the funding could deliver an estimated boost of up to £50 million for businesses across the West Midlands.
He announced the package following a visit to Birmingham manufacturer I&M Controls, where he saw first-hand how an innovative approach to skills development has brought about significant improvements in efficiency and profitability.
Mr Austin said: "Small companies are the lifeblood of our economy, and make a huge contribution to the West Midlands economy.
"Many companies are having a tough time as a result of the downturn. The economic problems we are facing might have started in the US, but they're having a real impact on small businesses in the West Midlands and they need a government on their side and providing extra support.
“In particular, that means continuing to invest in the skills of our workforce so that our region's economy emerges from the downturn ready to take full advantage of the opportunities recovery will bring.
"The new skills support investment and flexibility is designed to help every worker in every small or medium-sized business get training, acquire new skills and contribute to the success of their organisation.
"I&M Controls is building its future by investing in skills and is an excellent example of the sort of business success that we are determined to support through the present economic difficulties."
I&M Controls is a small manufacturer of electrical engineering based in Hockley, specialising in the production of control panels for the car industry and distribution boards for the banking sector. Founded in 1970 they were the first UK supplier to Siemens.
Sixteen I&M Controls employees out of a total workforce of 35 have gained new skills and qualifications thanks to funded, targeted training in engineering and lean manufacturing through the national Train to Gain skills service.
The company is also reaping the benefits of the PAC framework - a new skills and training initiative developed by the Learning and Skills Council with the Sector Skills Council for science, engineering and manufacturing technologies (SEMTA) and the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).
The 14 businesses that took part in a regional pilot of the PAC framework reported an average improvement in profitability of £112,000 per year thanks to investment in NVQ programmes in business improvement techniques and the introduction of a standard set of measures of quality, cost and delivery.
Jerry Blackett, chief executive of Birmingham Chamber of Commerce, added: “The management team at I&M Controls has demonstrated how accessing the available skills support can make a measurable difference to business performance.
“Their offer to mentor other businesses that are seeking to invest in skills is very welcome and I would encourage other employers whose businesses have already benefited in this way to work with us to follow that lead.
““The new ability for workers to study accredited modules relevant to their particular need and to not always need to complete a full qualification, is extremely important.
“For many years now, workers and employers have been frustrated at the lack of this flexibility. Introducing it now could not be more timely.
Train to Gain is administerd by the Learning & Skills Council. David Cragg, regional director of the LSC in the West Midlands, said: "The collapse of MG Rover nearly three-and-a-half years ago presented a hugely challenging set of circumstances.
"We learned a tremendous amount about how best to deal with difficult economic circumstances by creating skills delivery systems with the flexibility to respond quickly as the need arises."