Franchise deals cemented

Franchising frightens some as reports circulate of colleges being milked by unscrupulous companies offering bogus workplace training. But not at Derby Tertiary College, Wilmorton, where a major franchising deal brought 5,500 enrolments.

The future of such deals is uncertain as the Government's cuts to the budget for college growth will end the major source of cash for such programmes.

Under the Derby deal with the Normanton brewery group - producers of the regional brews Marstons, Vaux, Charles Wells and Eldridge Pope - the college provides outreach assessment and monitoring to pub staff who are being put through national vocational qualification programmes.

The franchise carries with it Pounds 1 million in Further Education Funding Council cash but is unusual as college staff provide training and assessment on company premises. Travelling teams of college staff support the training, monitoring and assessment provided by pub managers.

Over at Tarmac Training, the construction industry's biggest private training provider, colleges are queuing up to strike franchising deals through Tarmac's 14 regional training centres.

Every Tarmac centre now has at least three groups of college trainees who make up some of the 1,000 school-leavers and 500 adults it trains every year.

Tarmac training manager Albert Hoggins said: "We have 400 youngsters who are being funded through the FEFC. We are in demand as we can do it cheaper and better than the colleges."

Tarmac's success also proves that colleges are ill-advised to attempt to simulate workplace experience.

Mr Hoggins said: "We are better funded than most colleges because we can pull in cash from training and enterprise councils, the industry itself and from FEFC. Construction training is heavy on materials and space - both of which are too costly for most colleges."

And, part of the Tarmac group, the training centres offer another important advantage - they are able to plug into a ready-made network of work placements, building sites all over Britain - something a college with its local business partnership cannot do.

FEFC spokeswoman Patricia Stubbs said: "Franchising is widening participation in vocational training and is a cost-effective method of delivering FE. " The council's view is endorsed by a recent National Audit Office report which gave most franchising a clean bill of health.

Derby College's director of research and development Gordon Stewart said: "Our deal with the brewery is providing workplace training for Pounds 6.50 a unit as opposed to Pounds 18 in college. And these trainees are people who we would never otherwise have seen."

But a number of recent well-publicised criticisms has led the Department for Education and Employment and the FEFC to rethink the funding strategy.

The council set up a working party which has included scrapping of franchising among a range of options to cope with the cuts in cash for growth. Employers would be expected to contribute more to workplace NVQs.

The efforts of some sectors of industry to stimulate training is clearly benefiting colleges who are seeing increasing numbers of recruits for certain vocational courses.

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