BUILDING around a shared vision will be the key to survival when the learning and skills councils take over funding of post-16 education from April 2001, according to Steven Broomhead, chief executive of Warrington Council.
He says that Warrington has already established learning partnerships with employers and built up a "good momentum of lifelong learning".
Warrington's schools, colleges, training and enterprise councils and employers spend pound;150 million a year on education and training for a population of 200,000. "If 10 per cent could be refocused on improving quality, it could make a big difference."
Institutions may feel threatened by the changes, but information and collaboration make innovation less painful, he says.
Schools need information to prepare for the change, and Mr Broomhead wants to raise awareness in Warrington's 11 secondary schools. However, schools in general are "in for a bit of a shock" under the new funding regime, he warns.
Sixth-form funding is likely to be reduced, and schools and colleges must continue to collaborate rather than compete, as they are already encouraged to do in Warrington, and pool resources and teachers.
As well as Office for Standards in Education inspections, they will have to undergo the LSC's additional audits and quality monitoring. The launch of Connexions - the careers service for teenagers - in 2001 also means that schools will need to see clear routes for continuing education and training, and for getting advice.
He believes that there will be changes in what courses institutions can offer, bu that this will not come through tight funding as many people fear.
"Forces of rationalisation will come through quality rather than finance," he says, and schools and colleges must concentrate on providing appropriate courses.
Mr Broomhead has a longstanding commitment to lifelong learning. Before becoming chief executive of a local authority, he was principal of Peterlee College and president of the Association for College Management.
He believes that the coming changes can be beneficial, but they need to be managed. Existing good community-based projects must not be lost, and existing resources will be carefully tracked to make sure that "nobody falls over the cliff".
Believing that a shared vision comes first and the structures to deliver it follow. Mr Broomhead is about to launch an extensive consultation. A skills audit in three areas of the borough led to the establishment of training for jobs in call centres, a growing service industry in the region.
Employers have been keen to be involved in discussions on training and the four call centres now share training materials and processes, with the authority acting as broker.
The current Further Education Funding Council system has attracted considerable criticism and Mr Broomhead believes that the LSC can do better.
"It should be a fresh start building on the best of the past," he says.
The LSC has local discretion over the spending of up to 15 per cent of its funds and local authorities will be able to support worthwhile projects provided there is evidence to back up the bids.