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Open market in a state of flux

The network of training organisations in Britain is massive and in a constant state of flux. There are 1,799 providers holding contracts with training and enterprise councils in England and Wales. Around 200 of them join the Training Standards Council's inspection list each year, while a similar number leave.

Of the 1,682 in England, 276 are associated with FE colleges, and a similar number work in the public sector, in the same way as local authorities and NHS Trusts.

Between 300 and 400 are within the voluntary or not-for-profit sector. The rest are private, mostly specialist training companies.

But where did this training industry come from? Many have been involved in government-funded training for years, some even going back to the introduction of Youth Opportunities Schemes in the 1970s. What we have now is largely a legacy of the earlyEighties, when the Thatcher government attempted to address chronic youth unemployment.

Come April 2001, public and private training sectors will be thrust into an open market competing for Whitehall money.

Penny Sanders, deputy chief executive of Manchester Tec, says: "If you look back over the past few years, a lot of these non-FE providers have been working in various forms of relationship with FE. There has been franchising at the most extreme end, but equally a lot of them have bought parts of their off-the-job provision from their local college in quite a happy situation.

"Their employer and their sector relationships are really good, and a lot of them have really concentrated on the pastoral support and so on, and have done it very happily. But what we have now is an open market coming up which turns all that upside down."

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