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Offering blue-chip clients a one-stop shop for training brings in an income of seven figures, Neil Munro reports

Although some educational purists might not like it, today's colleges are businesses as well as centres of further education. Reid Kerr is no exception.

Its commercial operations bring in an income running to seven figures, which is then invested in mainstream college work as well as being used to develop its business activities.

Elaine Moffat, the business communications manager, describes these activities as "a one-stop shop for training". Reid Kerr offers packages as well as tailored courses, and undertakes training needs analysis as well as allowing customers to buy into the college's regular menu.

The quality of the courses ensures that they receive a lot of return business, according to Ms Moffat. Among the hundreds of companies the college deals with are Rolls-Royce, IBM, Ciba-Geigy and the NHS.

It is a sign of the times that the multimillion-pound investment taking place in further education has brought about such an improvement in facilities that many colleges can now equal the standards of anything found in industry. The hairdressing and beauty section in the new Renfrew North building is one example. It now boasts five hairdressing salons, five beauty salons and a make-up artistry studio equipped with 90 styling units, 20 standard backwash units, 15 beauty units, 50 beauty couches and 18 make-up units.

But Reid Kerr staff are also expected to service their customers elsewhere.

So when British Airways wanted to run a health and safety awareness course for 250 maintenance staff in Glasgow, Reid Kerr was able to supply what the airline wanted in the form of a half-day course spread over two years and delivered in-house.

The deal required the college to customise course content, method of delivery, the location and the resources that were required. It also meant finding staff with expertise in areas such as back safety, accident causation, working at heights, environmental safety and disposing of hazardous waste.

Ron Fuller, senior engineering safety adviser with BA, said the link-up with Reid Kerr had proved such a success he would be actively encouraging other maintenance groups throughout the country to follow suit.

Reid Kerr is not, of course, alone in pitching for such business. It has to compete with other colleges, training providers, management companies and universities. What the college brings to the table is a range of provision which few can match, from engineering to health care and from basic first aid to degree programmes.

The range of business which the college has won is equally extensive. And the clients seem satisfied.

"An excellent standard of training, hands-on support and encouragement," is the view of Willie Young, managing partner of solicitors Brechin Tindal Oates.

Allan French, operations director of Blairs of Scotland, specialist designers of heritage windows and doors, complimented the college on the way it was able to help the company "develop people while still running a business".

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