Thanks to funding that enables firms to upskill employees, City of Glasgow College has recently been able to deliver 1800 courses, ranging from digital marketing workshops to 'compassionate management' training. By Nan Spowart


THE pandemic has hit many organisations hard – but in Scotland, funding has been made available to help them improve productivity, fill skills gaps and also retrain the existing workforce.

Recovery from the coronavirus crisis will take time and money and the Scottish Government has recognised this by doubling the multi-million pound Flexible Workforce Development Fund (FWDF).

In the academic year 2020/21, the Scottish Government increased the annual £10 million fund to £20m, £17m of which was delivered through colleges. 

This has been maintained for the academic year 2021/22, with the FWDF allowing employers to continue to upskill their workforce and respond to the ongoing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

City of Glasgow College has been supporting businesses through the fund since its introduction in 2017. 

The onset of lockdown in 2020 saw the College swiftly move its FWDF provision online and continue to develop and enhance a portfolio of programmes specifically tailored for industry and business needs. 

Since then, the team have delivered more than 1,800 courses remotely to over 12,000 delegates. 

The College’s success lies in its flexibility with employers and its ability to meet their skills needs. Employers can be of any size and from any sector whether it is private, public, universities or charities.

“There might be similarities between large organisations and small charities but there will be differences as well so our lecturers contextualise the material,” explained Douglas Thomson, Flexible Workforce Development Fund Manager at City of Glasgow College. 


“We offer all the larger programmes, like professional qualifications, but we also have a wide portfolio of short classes, workshops – on topics such as digital marketing – and training courses so clients can effectively build a customised training plan to meet their specific needs. It is a bit like building Lego. 

“They can build a training plan to fit exactly what they need to fill their skills gaps in their business and the lecturers can contextualise that training further. We are aware that it is not necessarily one size fits all for every single course.”

The fund is available for SMEs as well as employers who pay the Apprenticeship Levy, with the College team taking companies through the application process, identifying appropriate courses and developing new ones where required.

“In year one we based the courses on the information we had from our existing commercial links and the market information that was available and since then our delivery has confirmed we picked the right basis on which to start and we have added to that as we go,” said Mr Thomson.

Recently, the College has developed compassionate management training programmes. These are aimed at managers, in order to provide them with the training necessary to support employees cope during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. 

LeeAnn Clulow, who delivers the course, said the pandemic had necessitated a change in management approach and now had to be focused on compassion which, rather than an idealistic concept, already has a strong business case.


“Organisations are starting to realise there is a business case for compassionate management as it is supported by theoretical and empirical studies that show compassion in the workplace improves productivity and organisational performance in particular,” said Mrs Clulow, Lecturer in Business Management FWDF. 

“It develops positive emotions in the workplace, with employees becoming more committed and engaged. There is less turnover of staff and higher customer satisfaction, so overall you see an improvement in organisational performance.”

During the course, Mrs Clulow cites the example of the College’s Principal Paul Little who, she said, uses a compassionate approach to his staff and has continued to do so during the pandemic.

“That supports the view that it needs to come from the top to achieve that culture within an organisation so staff know it is not a tick box exercise,” said Mrs Clulow.

Added Mr Thomson: “We know from many companies we work with that this has a direct impact on organisational productivity, staff retention, staff turnover and staff absences because if people are stressed and don’t feel supported they will burn out, go off sick or will not provide a good service to clients and customers. 

“Having that emotionally intelligent approach can make the difference between giving clients a good service and helping the organisation to be productive or being a weak spot and leaving.

“You have to remember you are dealing with people and that is a skill set that managers need – if more had those skills you would see a lot of productivity issues within businesses either disappear or significantly reduce. Businesses would be much more productive and much more able to manage things like the impact of the pandemic.”
Mr Thomson said some organisations had been struggling with weak spots in their structure and operations for years but, until the fund had been set up, could not afford training that was not mandatory. 

“They can finally access funding that is specifically not for mandatory training but for addressing all the things they did not previously have money to sort,” he said.

  • City of Glasgow College is holding an online information session on Tuesday 1 February. Those interested in attending, or who wish more details on the FWDF courses the College provides, please contact Douglas Thomson on 0141 375 5423 or email