Newcastle college gets Carter

28th March 2008 at 00:00

The acquisition of the failed training firm is turning Newcastle College into a nationwide force in work-based learning

A nationwide super-college has risen from the ashes of Carter and Carter as the failed training firm's activities are taken over by the public sector.

The news that Newcastle College has bought most of the business was given a cautious welcome by the University and College Union (UCU) this week despite recent industrial unrest over the imposition of new contracts at the college.

The deal is expected to see Newcastle's turnover rise from an estimated pound;90 million this year to pound;150 million, the biggest in the country.

Most of the 27,000 trainees on Carter and Carter's books will become the responsibility of the college. A question mark remains over the Nottingham-based firm's other training operations - including those specialising in the motor industry - although the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) remains at the centre of attempts to find these a new home.

Deloitte - the accountancy firm which has acted as administrator for the firm - paid tribute to the skills council for oiling the wheels to make the deal happen. While there had been criticism from college principals about the apparent lack of a rescue plan for the trainees after Carter and Carter ran into trouble last May, Deloitte said the quango played a crucial role during the administration.

Chris Farrington, a partner in Deloitte in Nottingham, said: "The deal has been made more complex by the number of different businesses within the group.

"However, we have had excellent co-operation from operational management, the LSC, the Department of Work and Pensions and the employees. We wish them well for the future."

Staff at the college arrived at work this week to find an email - sent on Good Friday - announcing the deal.

The UCU said it was surprised by the speed of the deal. Barry Lovejoy, head of colleges at the union, said: "We are pleased the business has been returned to the public sector, but concerned that the college has wide geographical interests and hope it is not spreading itself too thinly.

"There is also the issue of industrial relations where the college has forced contracts on staff. We'll be seeking a meeting on this."

With the purchases over the past two years of Skelmersdale and Ormskirk College and private provider TWL Training, both in Lancashire, the college has effectively established itself as a national institution. Carter and Carter has centres across the country, providing vocational courses on behalf of employers and funded mainly by the LSC.

Jackie Fisher, Newcastle College's principal, described the latest conquest as "a fantastic opportunity to create a strong employer-facing business drawing on the strengths of both organisations".

Jamie Martin, chairman of the governors, said: "This is a great opportunity for the college to deliver its excellent practice on a national scale and cement our standing as a provider of work-based learning, training and development."

Carter and Carter's decline began in May last year with the death of Phillip Carter, its chief executive, in a helicopter crash. The tragedy was followed by a collapse in the share price. Shares were suspended from trading in October.

Leading article, page 4

THE 10 BIGGEST COLLEGES

The FE colleges with the biggest turnover based on 2006-07 accounts (Pounds m):

City College Manchester: pound;81.8

Newcastle: pound;73.0

Cornwall: pound;70.4

City of Bristol: pound;62.8

Bradford: pound;57.6

Manchester College of Arts and Technology: pound;51.1

Ealing, Hammersmith and West London: pound;51.0

Sheffield: pound;50.4

City and Islington: pound;46.6

Derby: pound;46.3.

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