THE district’s three BIDs have joined forces for the first time to launch a unique scheme to help businesses and their staff get ready to bounce back from the Covid-19 lockdown.

The Business Improvement Districts in Bradford city centre, Ilkley and Keighley have teamed up with Ilkley-based Virtual College to offer levy-payers a range of free and discounted online courses to help them learn new skills to boost their businesses.

Bradford BID manager Jonny Noble said: “Bradford’s district BIDs are in constant contact and liaise with each other all the time to share best practice and swap ideas to benefit our levy-payers.

“We know that #TogetherBradfordCan and with the shared problems all our members have with recovering from the pandemic restrictions, it made absolute sense to work together on a project which could have a big impact on helping businesses to get back to their best when the measures are eased and we think the courses on offer from Virtual College will be a very effective way to help achieve that.”

The project is initially being launched as a pilot to make sure all of the BIDs and their levy-payers are benefitting from any investment that they choose to make in extending the scheme in the future.

Helen Rhodes, manager of Ilkley BID, said the lockdown was the perfect time for businesses at all levels to develop skills.

“The sector split and numbers of businesses may be different across the three BID areas but there is a joint appetite for upskilling business owners and their staff,” she said. “Whilst differentiation against the competition has always been important, more than ever businesses are going to need to be able to stand out from the crowd.

“This, together with the acknowledgement that businesses of all sizes are now recognising the need for a good digital presence, means this is an ideal time to look at learning new skills."

Paul Howarth, the Keighley BID manager, said: “We are delighted to be involved in this pilot aimed at helping our town and city centre businesses in their recovery and it is a pleasure to be working with the other district BIDs in Bradford and Ilkley and Virtual College in establishing this project.

“Now more than ever, businesses need to be working together, sharing best practice and using the time to refresh their skills or learn something new and we are confident this will go some way to helping achieve that.”

Free learning courses available to businesses include: digital business skills, mental health and well being, and infection prevention and control. There are also new e-learning courses set up for food businesses who wish to move to home deliveries.

Levy-payers can sign up for the courses online at