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Colleges to cash in as bug busters;FE Focus

Millennium bug-busting courses will provide a cash boost for colleges under the Government's pound;30 million programme to train an army of 20,000 troubleshooters to deal with its potentially catastrophic effects.

Four colleges - Grantham, Northampton, Canterbury Christ Church and City College, Manchester - are among 28 accredited providers named this week by the National Training Organisation for Information Technology to give staff in small and medium-sized enterprises training and enterprise council-funded training to make their in-house systems year 2000 compliant. Other colleges are expected to win training tenders next week.

The Further Education Funding Council, which issued guidelines to all colleges in February, has also announced a seminar to be held next month for college managers on strategies for combating the problem.

The bug, activated when two-digit calendars in some computers interpret the year 00 as 1900 rather than 2000, could affect everything from mainframe computers to PCs, playing havoc with administrative networks controlling college payrolls and libraries. Hundreds of other electrical appliances which rely on electronic chips - including video recorders, security cameras, fire alarms, lift systems, photocopiers and telephones - could also malfunction.

But surveys by the Government-backed information campaign Action 2000 have shown that although there is widespread awareness of the bug only20 per cent had started to deal with it.

Action 2000 spokeswoman Elizabeth Allen said: "Colleges shouldn't be complacent. We would urge them to look at the systems they have and find out where their vulnerability may be. I'd love to be able to say that everyone knows about it and knows what to do but that just isn't the case."

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