Our managing director, Chris Simes, spoke to Yorkshire Business Insider earlier this month, to reflect on how 2019 looked for Collingwood Learning, as well as what 2020 has in store for the industry. In case you missed the piece, catch up on our comments below.

At Collingwood Learning, 2019 was a breakthrough year for many reasons. Firstly, we’ve significantly increased our overseas work, exporting our education programme – The Smashed Project – to over 400,000 young people across 23 countries.

We were also award winners at the Local Government Chronicle Awards for Real Safeguarding Stories, a unique safeguarding initiative developed with Bradford Council. And, thanks to LEP’s Digital Transformation Fund, we’ve been able fully equip our team with the IT tools needed to operate internationally – something we are already seeing the benefits of on the bottom line.

Thinking about the future, our goal this coming year will be to scale up our international work dramatically and invest in developing online learning products.

More broadly, the key challenges for SME’s in 2020 will be around finance and recruitment.

Given the stagnation of bank funding for many years, traditional forms of short- and long-term lending have all but dried up. In order to grow, companies like ours are increasingly looking to alternative sources of finance, and we will be keen find out whether commitments to the Northern Powerhouse translate into the exciting investment funds that are needed in the region.

The second big agenda this year will be skills – particularly digital. Such is the demand that many partners are already reporting recruitment challenges, notably a small pool of talent that can command unprecedented salary levels from graduation. This could be a significant barrier to growth to small and medium sized companies in Yorkshire.