Supertec chief swaps meals for training deals

Ask Jeremy Long about his recreations and he says: "I love London. I have lived in London for 20 years and there is no capital city I would rather live in."

Handy for the man who has just been made chief executive of CENTEC, the Central London Training and Enterprise Council. CENTEC merges with CILNTEC, the City and Inner London North TEC in April to form the biggest TEC in the UK, with 150 staff and a turnover of o50 million.

It will cover Camden, the City, Hackney, Hammersmith and Fulham, Islington, Kensington and Chelsea, Lambeth, Southwark and Westminster.

Jeremy Long, previously managing director of Pavilion Services, which manages Little Chef, Burger King and TraveLodge, will lead an organisation which will be central to the capital's economic growth.

"It is a big geographic area but the problems are very common," said Mr Long. "One of the problems of central London is that people tend to look at averages. On most of the measures London does not look too bad, average unemployment, average wealth. The reality is that you have the extremes underlying those averages. I think we have problems common to other TECs but we have some of the greatest concentration of those problems."

He has spent his first few weeks visiting organisations and building up trust. He says he knows "a little bit" about FE colleges. He says that there have sometimes been difficulties in the relationship between colleges and the TECs, particularly over funds.

"That is something we are keen to give central London FE colleges another opportunity to look at. They have to respect that we too have targets and we have to achieve training, or some of our training at the best possible price. But if there is a way of helping them to achieve or a way to take part of our programme I would be only too happy to let them in again.

"We have started looking more closely at the mix of FE colleges, the relationshi p of courses to their own area or courses within central London. This TEC does intend to see if there is a role to develop a more effective FE network across the central London area.

"We have started to talk to FE colleges in the area. I would like to have time with them to evolve what we might do jointly."

He is concerned about the extra costs facing London colleges. "It is arguable that because of the nature of some of the client groups they deal with, they have to put more time and effort in."

He thinks that nationally TECs have now got themselves real credibility and that all political parties recognise their pivotal role in regenerating local communities.

"In many areas I would argue that markets should sort themselves out but I do believe that you have to intervene in cities."

He sees his role as making the TEC into an effective organisation for helping people and businesses to improve and achieve. He wants to bring about a change in thinking. "We need to make people better at planning their own career development, rather than relying upon an employer. We have to get that change in thinking.

"I talk about changing from the strain to train mentality. We must change from the employer regarding it as a strain to act on training, and the employee regarding it as a strain to be trained, to yearning for learning."

We need, he says, to reach the stage where an employee, negotiating with a potential employer, argues about what level of training commitment goes into the contract not about life assurance or BUPA.

Mr Long does not fear a new government. "We do not have a political role. We have to be prepared to bite the political hand that feeds us. It would be quite wrong if we did not."

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