Employers in County Durham are being offered the chance to grow their businesses through support and advice provided by the Durham Employment and Skills (DES) service.
The organisation, which forms part of the training arm of Durham County Council, liaises with local businesses to provide bespoke, employer-relevant training to staff at all levels.
There are over 40 courses on offer, from one day workshops on first aid and food hygiene, to high level management qualifications.
Cllr Carl Marshall, Cabinet member for economic regeneration, said: “Providing support and advice to our home-grown businesses is of vital importance to the economic wellbeing of County Durham.
“Not only do we play a role in creating local success stories, we also lend a helping hand to those who are struggling to get back into work and for whom the world of work seemed a very unlikely prospect.
“To be able to make such a positive impact on the lives and communities of people in County Durham is very encouraging.”
The service also acts on behalf of the long-term unemployed, or those recently made redundant, by providing training, skills and support to get people back into work.
Donna Watson, from Stanley, was first referred to the DES service in May 2014, following surgery. She had multiple health issues that required attendance at pain clinics and hospital appointments, and Donna had a support worker and a number of health professionals working to help her.
However, following her Insight Appointment, DES suggested self-employment as a way forward, as this would enable her to work around her health concerns.
Donna was keen on this idea and was supported through courses relating to online business. Soon, she came up came up with the idea of buying and selling designer clothes via Ebay.
In February 2016, Donna made the jump and signed off Employment and Support Allowance to become self-employed.
Her business has continued to grow from a very small beginning to now, one year later, when Donna has been able to employ another person full time to help her with running her business.
Donna is continuing to work with Durham Employment and Skills and is now looking to develop support sessions for others who would like to start their own online business as she feels she has a lot of information that she can share to help support others.
Speaking about her experiences, Donna said: “I would definitely recommend the programme to others as I feel it has helped me to regain confidence and overcome barriers that I faced. It has helped me change direction in my life.
“I have enjoyed my experience on the programme and I have used it as a platform to go forward and do other things. It has allowed me to think about what I want to do in the future and set new targets.
“The most important thing is that is helped to build my financial independence, which is very important to me.
“I now feel able to achieve the employment, business and personal goals that I have set myself.”
Training and assessment programmes are available in the following areas:
The latest Durham Employment and Skills prospectus can be found at www.durham.gov.uk/DES.