Bureaucratic botch-ups and wrangles are frittering away precious training resources. Ian Nash reports. Colleges have lost out on millions of pounds of untapped resources because of feuding with Training and Enterprise Councils, a joint report from the Further Education Funding Council and TEC National Council suggests.
Where good links are established, the benefits are considerable, it says. The creation of an FE development fund in collaboration with the local TEC has brought one college an extra Pounds 250,000 in contracts. Others say that joint planning has helped them target employers and sell them training courses.
The joint report published today aims to provide colleges and TECs with models of good practice for more effective planning for lifelong learning.
The authors argue that failure occurs when both sides get bogged down with bureaucracy, the "procedures and systems" instead of creating positive relationships between people.
John Troth, chairman of the joint TEC-FEFC review committee, recognised that efforts to forge a closer alliance are fraught with difficulties. "Developing good practice requires creative collaboration and sensitivity to the areas of potential conflict," he said.
This conflict emerged on day one of college incorporation in 1993 when FE managers accused the TECs of stealing their intellectual property - plans submitted as bids for TEC contracts. There was further anger over TECs muscling in on the FE territory by acting as training providers.
The TECs countered that colleges failed to understand the markets or were too costly. This row was brought into sharp relief with the training credits pilots. Managers at one large college in Devon claimed to have lost Pounds 450,000 because of the shift of control over cash to the TEC.
Following last year's White Paper on Competitiveness new arrangements came into effect this April to ensure closer working between the colleges and TECs. The controversial work-related FE programme was scrapped and control of the cash handed back from the TECs to colleges.
The TECs, however, were given a say in approving college strategic plans and control of a new Pounds 20 million competitiveness fund to help colleges meet particular critical needs of the labour market.
Evidence from 10 case studies of TEC-college collaboration shows that the benefits go well beyond the extra cash, through economies of scale with the sharing of costs and expertise.
In one region, the report says, "areas of potential conflict were minimised and there were fewer last-minute wrangles with the local TEC over approval of college plans."
The best of schemes appear to be developed from a joint planning forum involving the TEC and all colleges in the area.
Case studies in the report cover economic and labour market analysis, TEC approval of strategic plans, TEC membership of college governing bodies, contracts, examples of collaborative projects and examples of TECs and colleges working together in wider partnerships such as with schools.
TEC-College Relations, A Good Practice Guide is being sent to all colleges and TECs.
* London colleges have been hit further by the collapse earlier this year of the South Thames Training and Enterprise Council. Responsibility for funding training courses has been transferred to Central London TEC and the South London TEC.
But four colleges which have already lost up to Pounds 800,000 each in unpaid revenue, have been told either their services are no longer needed or are too expensive.
Lambeth College had more than Pounds 1m of contracts with South Thames for youth and adult training schemes. College principal Adrian Perry said that some contracts were not being renewed. Others had been offered to the college at an impossibly low price.
Lewisham College principal Ruth Silver said that the cash offered to renew programmes at her college represented a loss of up to Pounds 551,000 in college income.