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Scams, financial crises and other 'demand-led' fiascos

Efforts to make colleges provide courses that meet the demands of the marketplace have a chequered history.

When colleges were freed from local authority control in 1993, the then Tory government created a range of measures with this aim, including franchising courses to industry. The state paid for staff training if real "added value" was identified for employers.

So Halton College registered Tesco shelf-stackers, Bilston had partnerships with operatic societies and brass bands. South Devon ventured into Scuba diving. All made perfect sense - until inspectors blew the whistle.

Then there was so-called "demand-led" funding which gave colleges a bottomless well of cash for growth, although at a cut price per student.

Recruitment hit record highs until scams and bogus courses were unearthed.

The scheme was abandoned - plunging some 70 colleges into debt.

Then New Labour tried individual learning accounts. , supposedly a miracle cure for the skills deficit. Instead, fraud and lack of quality safeguards led to its ignominious demise.

So, when the Government talks up the skills-led agenda and Train to Gain, and pushes demand-led funding regimes for colleges and other providers, there will be inevitable concern that the schemes will be flawed or bogged down in bureaucracy.

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