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European Social Fund (ESF)

Last updated 22 October 2021
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ESF logo 2021

Is your organisation passionate about providing projects to support skills, employment and employability by meeting employer needs and enhancing opportunities for local people as well as providing skills to support the shift towards higher skilled and technical occupations?

The European Social Fund (ESF) provides support for projects that seek to meet employer needs in terms of skills and employability, enhancing opportunities for local people as well as providing skills to facilitate the shift towards higher skilled and technical occupations. Enterprise M3 had an allocation of £15 million ESF which has been guaranteed by The Treasury, regardless of Brexit.  Contracted ESF projects are providing skills and employability support in the EM3 area up to the end of 2023.

ESF Reserve Funding Opportunity - Closed on 10th June 2021

Enterprise M3 LEP had two new ESF calls open from 18th March 2021 which closed at midnight on 10th June 2021. We hosted two free technical assistance online events in support of these new calls to facilitate partnership development. The specifications for the calls related to the following:

Enterprise M3 Community Grants Programme

Enterprise M3 ESF Military Veterans and Families Skills Support 

Read more details about each of these below.

Enterprise M3 Community Grants Programme:

As Covid-19 continued to impact our communities, we welcomed organisations coming forward who would be interested in applying for the Enterprise M3 Community Grants Programme, with a focus on acquiring skills to gain employment.

The total allocation for the Enterprise M3 LEP area was £1.5m ESF.

The minimum revenue grant was £500,000 ESF with a 50% intervention rate.

The programme will provide grants from £2,500 up to £24,999 for small projects, led by citizens’ groups, voluntary and third sector organisations that help people to acquire skills needed to progress towards employment. Projects may be focused on supporting people living in areas of deprivation and/or those who experience significant barriers in the labour market, including but not exclusively:

• people with disabilities or health conditions, including those with learning difficulties, mental health issues or drug  and alcohol dependency problems

• people aged 50 or over and seeking employment

• people from ethnic minorities

• women

• lone parents

• people from neighbourhoods and estates where there are high levels of unemployment and deprivation

The deadline for applications closed on 10th June 2021.  The Managing Authority will be in touch with applicants to explain the next steps.

Download the Specification here:


Enterprise M3 ESF Skills Support for Employment for Armed Forces veterans and their Families  

EM3 sought organisations who looked to offer support to the ‘Armed Forces Community’ – perhaps in supporting skills deployment / development to enhance employability and find civilian jobs.

The ‘Armed Forces Community’ describes serving personnel in the Army, Navy, Royal Marines or Royal Air Force, including families, dependents, reservists and veterans. 

This funding call sought projects that would target specifically provision to support additional activities or target groups, including provision co-designed with local partners with:

• Softer skills development

• Volunteering and training opportunities

• First contact engagement

• Support complementing other skills provision, such as crosscutting and 21st century skills, including team working,  effective communication, problem solving, critical thinking and self-direction

• Digital and internet literacy courses to aid job searching, access to benefits and progress in work

• Local networks and groups to support people to get a job or access learning (for example, Job Clubs or Learning Champion type activity) to provide people with a safe environment and peer support

The deadline for applications closed on 10th June 2021. The Managing Authority will contact applicants to explain the next steps.

The total allocation for the Enterprise M3 LEP area was £1.5m ESF.

The minimum revenue grant was £375,000 ESF with a 50% intervention rate.

Download the specification here:


You can learn more about ESF funding by watching a range of short videos just launched on the Enterprise M3 LEP You Tube channel to highlight EU funding available via Enterprise M3.

The videos showcase past success stories, including organisations awarded funding to support projects helping people to improve their skills and set up a social enterprise business and the STEP project supporting those at risk of being not in employment, education or training. 

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