Troubled training firm up for sale

28th September 2001 at 01:00
A COMPANY offering work-based training throughout the West Country is up for sale after getting into financial difficulty.

Advanced Training, a registered charity based in Taunton, Somerset, was granted an administration order at Bristol High Court last week, allowing it to trade a further three months so it can find a buyer.

The company runs 12 training centres in five Learning and Skills Council areas and employs 140 full - and part-time staff. It has around 850 young people and 250 adults on work-based learning programmes, many LSC-funded.

Margaret Luck, Advanced Training's founder and chief executive, said the firm was a victim of a squeeze on work-based training.

Businesses in fear of recession are cutting back on training: the firm lost some contracts in the change-over from TEC to LSC earlier this year, and better GCSE results have hit demand for its courses, she said.

"It's multi-faceted," she said. "But our income isn't sufficient to carry the overheads of the structure we've built up over the years.

"We've spoken to the Charity Commission and have negotiated with national LSC so we could go into administration.

"We wanted to avoid getting to the end of the road and finding we had a sudden death situation. We want to make sure the trainees and their employers were supported.'' She said there has been much interest from potential buyers, and a priority is to keep as much of the business going as possible to protect jobs and those on programmes.

Somerset Learning amp; Skills Council has pledged to continue funding trainee places despite the company's upheaval.

"Either there will be buyers for part of or the whole of the business. The LSC's remit is that the learner comes first, so ar far as we're concerned the primary imperative is to make sure there is no disruption to the learners who are in placements organised by Advanced Training," said Dugald Sandeman, the LSC's chief executive. "Or if there aren't, we'll have to start transferring trainees to other providers.'' Many private providers in the work-based training sector are feeling the pinch of employers cutting back on training and of high employment, said Hugh Pitman, chairman of the Association of Learning Providers.

"For a long time we've been looking forward to tax breaks for companies carrying out training," he said. "That hasn't happened.''

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