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Tailored to the needs of small firms

Welfare to Work was unveiled in the Queen's Speech. Ngaio Crequer and Ben Russell ask college heads and trainers what they think of it

A week's notice is all they get for some courses at Hastings College of Arts and Technology.

The college has become wellused to running courses tailored to the needs of the plethora of small business it serves. Principal Judy Vegh says that this experience puts her college in a very good position to benefit from Labour's Welfare to Work programme.

She said: "We would certainly be prepared - if we are going to have significant numbers of new students - to find out exactly what kind of education and training employers want. Our own experience is that employers find it quite inconvenient to release people to go to college, so we always try to be as flexible as possible. We have had people out in businesses finding out what is going on and we have a very good feel for what is needed.

"We have spent a whole year telling companies about national apprenticeships - and it's the same cohort of companies that will be recruiting under this. We do a lot of Job Seekers' training for the training and enterprise council already and we are used to reacting quickly - indeed the whole sector is.

"Our biggest problem is that there are a lot of companies without a lot of money who need some sort of incentive to send their employees to us. The economy is picking up and there is an upturn in part-time enrolments.

"Perhaps with this little extra incentive it will encourage companies. They are already reporting skills shortages in some areas, so there is demand."

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