Professional business services firms encouraged to apply for government grants to train staff in AI

Professional business services firms encouraged to apply for government grants to train staff in AI
Dan Martin
Dan MartinDan Martin Content & Events

Posted: Wed 1st May 2024

Applications have opened for the government's new grant scheme that funds training in artificial intelligence (AI) for owners and employees at professional services businesses.

The Flexible AI Upskilling Fund was first announced in chancellor Jeremy Hunt's 2024 Spring Budget in March.

The pilot scheme, from the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT), has £6.4m of grant funding and is expected to support around 2,000 SMEs.

The grant can be used to subsidise up to 50% of the cost of AI skills training at micro, small and medium-sized businesses with under 250 employees in the professional business services sector.

To be eligible, the training needs to focus on supporting staff to develop their technical skills and/or understanding of AI to be able to develop, deploy, or use AI in their role. The grants cannot be used for in-house training or to purchase AI tools.

To help businesses identify the AI training they need, the Alan Turing Institute have published new guidance outlining the relevant skills and competencies employees need to use AI at work.

Apply for the Flexible AI Upskilling Fund

To apply, businesses need to be registered with Companies House and employ between one and 250 employees.

They also need to operate in the professional business services sector as defined by the standard industrial classification (SIC) codes outlined in the government's guidance.

Eligible businesses include those providing legal, accounting, bookkeeping, advertising, market research, and human resources services.

For micro businesses with up to 10 staff, grants of up to £2,500 are available. Small firms with under 50 employees can get up to £5,000, and medium companies with no more than 250 workers can access up to £10,000.

Applications for the funding close at 12pm on 31 May and the training needs to be completed by 31 March 2025. Businesses can apply here.

Artificial intelligence core skills

The government shared this list of core AI skills:

artificial intelligence skills
AI training via the Flexible AI Upskilling Fund

When selecting a provider to deliver the AI training, business owners should check eligibility criteria, course offerings, and funding options to ensure they are suitable. Providers must also meet DSIT's eligibility criteria as outlined here.

Search on Enterprise Nation for expert trainers who might meet the government's eligibility for the grant.

DSIT says businesses should consider some or all of the following questions to determine if the training will meet business objectives and the AI upskilling needs of employees. Not all questions may be relevant to your specific circumstances.  

Aims and objectives 

  • Does the proposed training have clear aims and learning outcomes? 

  • Does the training provider demonstrate an awareness of the needs of your workforce? 

  • Does the training provider describe how they will work with you to adapt delivery to meet your employees' training needs, e.g. through a training needs analysis? 

  • Does the training provider describe how they will adapt the training for your business objectives e.g. building a challenge for your organisation as a case study? 

  • Does the training provider demonstrate how the curriculum addresses the needs of the personas in the AI skills for business competency framework? 

  • Does the training provider clearly describe how this training would contribute towards professional recognition or subsequent training for your delegates? 

Design and delivery 

  • Are the learning activities clearly described and mapped to the learning outcomes? 

  • Is the training provider able to deliver training to the target number of learners? 

  • Are the number of training hours proportionate to the scope of the training and are they achievable for your delegates alongside competing demands? 

  • Does the learning activity have the flexibility to adapt pace to learner needs and to be responsive to your discussions? 

  • Does the training provider demonstrate how they meet accessibility requirements? E.g. appropriate training locations, staff assistance and accessibility of digital materials.  


  • Does the training provider demonstrate which technical skills from the AI skills for business competency framework the curriculum addresses? 

  • Has the training provider secured accreditation for their activity, or otherwise been recognised for providing a quality service?  

  • Are methods for recognising and recording learner progress and achievement clear and understandable? 

  • Does the training provider demonstrate that trainers have relevant and up-to-date knowledge and experience? e.g. qualifications and professional experience. 

  • Does the training provider have clear processes in place to ensure training is up-to-date, technically accurate, and of a high quality. 

Evaluation and feedback 

  • Are processes in place to identify whether learning objectives have been met? 

  • Does the training provider have a well-documented feedback and evaluation process? 

  • Is there evidence how feedback will be acted upon? 

Flexible AI Upskilling Fund webinar

Related resources

Get advice on using digital tools in Enterprise Nation's Tech Hub

Webinar: How to use AI to supercharge your digital presence

How small businesses can leverage AI

Webinar: Harness the power of AI

Dan Martin
Dan MartinDan Martin Content & Events
I'm a freelance content creator and event host who helps small businesses and the organisations that support them. I'm also Enterprise Nation's Local Leader for Bristol. I have 20 years of experience as a small business journalist having interviewed hundreds of entrepreneurs from famous names like Sir Richard Branson and Deborah Meaden to the founders behind brand new start-ups. I've worked for a range of leading small business publications and support groups, most recently as head of content at Enterprise Nation where I was responsible for the prolific output of content on the company's blog and social media. I now freelance for Enterprise Nation as the website's news reporter and as the host of the Small Business sessions podcast. I'm based in Bristol where I run and host regular events with the local small business community in my role as Enterprise Nation's Local Leader for Bristol. I also have strong connections with other major business organisations in the south west region. In total, I've hosted over 100 events including conferences with an audience of hundreds for international brands like Xero and Facebook and live web chats from inside 10 Downing Street. With my partner, I co-run Lifestyle District, a lifestyle blog focused on culture, art, theatre and photography.

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