North East SME Skills Support

North East Ambition

The programme

North East Ambition is a programme of free support for small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) based in the North East of England, designed to ensure local businesses are taking advantage of the opportunities available to them to develop and upskill their workforce.

The programme, which is part funded by the European Social Fund, is delivered by Education Development Trust in partnership with the North East Local Enterprise Partnership. It follows a hugely successful pilot, which aimed to improve careers guidance in schools by developing and delivering a framework to engage educational establishments with local SMEs. The expansion of the programme will now provide businesses and employers with the support they need to be able to either re-train their staff or take up new recruits through a variety of government-supported schemes.

Each business that engages in the programme will be supported by a dedicated Skills Facilitator, who will work with the business to determine their specific requirements and develop a bespoke plan to support them in addressing current and future skills gaps. 

What we offer

Our team of Skills Facilitators provide a free, impartial consultancy service to SMEs in the North East, helping them to understand their skills needs and how to grow their business.

Finding a way through the skills landscape can be overwhelming and time consuming. Our team is available to help local businesses navigate this landscape, identifying the skills needs, training and finance options that will help them grow

Our Skills Facilitators work with businesses to:

  • Understand their skills needs and develop a bespoke action plan
  • Identify the most appropriate skills and employment programmes to support them in hiring new recruits or upskilling their current workforce
  • Find specific training courses and a trusted training provider
  • Advise on available funding options
  • Grow their networks and connect with other local businesses
  • Build partnerships with schools and colleges, enabling access to future talent.

Who can apply to the programme?

The North East Ambition programme is available to SMEs based in the North East. To be eligible, business must meet the following criteria:

A small or medium-sized enterprise with fewer than 250 employees. A turnover of less than €50 million, or a balance sheet total of less than €43 million.

This limit applies specifically to De Minimis Aid and not to aid granted under any other approved State Aid schemes such as the GBER (General Block Exemption Regulation).

If the applicant business declares it has already received €200,000 of De Minimis Aid within the relevant period, or if the grant of aid under North East Ambition would take them over the €200,000 limit, they would not be eligible for support.

These include Northumberland, North Tyneside, Newcastle, South Tyneside, Gateshead, Sunderland and Durham.


The North East Ambition programme is a key vehicle for the delivery of the objectives set out in the North East Strategic Economic Plan. The long-term ambition is that demand for skills and the quality of jobs in the North East continue to improve, leading to a more productive, inclusive, and sustainable regional economy.

The programme will focus on the four areas in the North East economy identified as having a strong opportunity for growth: digital, advanced manufacturing, health and life sciences, and energy. The programme will also support four enabling service sectors that support the wider economy and offer significant opportunities for more and better jobs, specifically education, financial, professional and business services, transport and logistics, and construction.

Click below to find out more about the skills landscape in each key sector:


Advanced manufacturing

Health and life sciences



Financial, professional and business services


If you would like to find out more about the North East Ambition programme, or have queries not covered here, please do get in touch with the team and we will be happy to help.

Contact us

Take a look at the range of free skills events that North East Ambition regularly run.