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Nothing like a bit of healthy competition

THE new individual learning accounts, currently out for consultation, give the Government the opportunity for a really revolutionary initiative to open the whole lifelong learning marketplace to competition for the benefit of learners.

At present, the colleges face no competition in this sector, because no one else can access the further education funding to provide courses; but many training providers have the skills and facilities to provide comparable courses. They already face the same audit processes as colleges through the Learning and Skills Council and Employment Service approval procedures.

New ILAs, if they mirror the previous scheme, may make a small contribution to the cost of some learning, but initial bureaucracy is likely to limit their effectiveness. So, why not allow all organisations which can prove they are valid providers of training to obtain funding for any courses which they know or believe learners are interested in taking. If the Government really believes in demand-led learning, why not introduce a programme to enable it? The LSC is already in place with the procedures to administer it.

Past studies, including some commissioned by the Government, have suggested that privately-run training providers can give training more cheaply than colleges and many offer courses which meet the same audit standards applied to colleges. If the private sector was allowed to obtain the funding to compete effectively with colleges, learners could only benefit from a wider range of courses, more low costs or free access to specialist training and a variety of approaches to learning.

As private training providers we continually have to compete on quality and price and we would welcome the opportunity to compete with colleges on a level playing field.

Terry Wardle Course director, The Media Centre Unit 14b St Martins Buildings St Martins Gate, Worcester

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