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'Tell us how this is going to work'

"We could get ready in four weeks if we had to," said Roberta Gardner, business development manager of The Training and Business Group.

The group is one of the growing band of private training agencies providing off-site collaborative schemes on behalf of the further education sector and expects to do big business under Welfare to Work.

Its 220 staff, based around the country, usually deal with the long-term unemployed, so it is well-placed to assist in the Welfare to Work programme.

"We deliver 2,200 jobs a year and more than 2,000 qualifications, and we work succcessfully with both FE colleges and TECs," said Ms Gardner. "What we want to know is how is it all going to work, what will be the model? Will there be elements of compulsion? Will people be put into priority groups?" An early problem will be changing people's behaviour and attitudes, she said. Some will not be ready for work, others will not be able to achieve a national vocational qualification level one. Attention will need to be paid to basic skills and young people will need to be remotivated. Pre-vocational courses will be necessary.

"But we feel ready," Ms Gardner said. "We are used to working in a fast-changing workplace. Overnight we will have to start running a brand-new programme, but that is something we have always had to do. This is our market. We know as much as anyone possibly could about the unemployed and their training needs.

"We would love to make preparations but we need more information, such as how will the funding be channelled? We also want to know who do we partner with, the colleges or the training and enterprise councils? If it is the colleges, we need to be sure they have the internal resources to carry out what is required, but we have no preference between them and the TECs.

"I think that partnerships and relationships should be as wide as possible. "

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