We've even organised classes at two in the morning

3rd November 2000 at 00:00
Not everyone thinks positively about FE for training, but the really often dispels the image. Selling lessons to industry has become a huge growth area. Martin Whittaker reports.

The college is 110 years old and was started by a local engineering philanthropist. Its whole history is steeped in working alongside the business community.

Ten years ago, we decided to change way we work with industry. We found that what we were offering wasn't what businesses wanted, so they weren't coming.

We started delivering education and training on their premises. Now we have a whole department at the college and that's all they do.

We have five permanent training centres on company premises, and 28 full-time staff who do nothing else.

We have developed the mainstream curriculum as well. With most of our part-time courses, the curriculum and learning materials are online.

We have to be flexible and keep delivering to meet what our customers need. If amanaging director of acompany phones up and says "I need someone here at 6pm," we would be able to do it. We've been known to do classes at two in the morning.

It boils down to buildingpersonal relationships. The managing director of a large company has just cancelleda business trip to Munich to give a talk about what we have done to develop NVQs in his company. At the end of the day, it's made a difference to his bottom line.

Doug Boynton

Principal, Telford College of Arts and Technology

Since I came to the college I've been very conscious of making a customer focus within the college. I started visiting companies, talking to them about what their needs are.

I prepared a portfolio focused on what a company would want - customised courses, courses that we could tailor-make towards theirparticular needs.

This led to quite a few new ideas and a lot of contacts, and then I built up a database. Iproduced reports which recorded the main points that came out of that particular visit.

Out of that ame a restructuring of the college. In 1995, the college had a management structure which was not positioning itself well in the market place . The college was really looking for a focus and an identity.

Because of the market research I did right across the board - in printing, engineering, electricalinstallation, motor vehicle - the whole range of companies, I used that as an input into how the college should shape up to actually meeting the needs of its market.

I feel the college has shaped up. For example, in 1995, approximately 90 to 95 per cent of the budget came through the FEFC and higher education courses. The last budget we had, dependency on FEFC was about 70 per cent. So in the past 5 years we've also managed todiversify our funding.

Dr Jim MacWilliams


Leeds College of Technology

We've got a big open-access centre that was set up to widenparticipation. Now we're using that technology to take learning into companies.

Vospers, a big Ford dealership in Plymouth, has computers in its outlets and workshops. Staff register with the college and get information technology training at times which are convenient to them.

Part of my job is to visitcompanies and try to find out what their training needs are, and to tell them what the college is doing.Taking learning into their premises is very welcome rather than them coming to us .

Our course team meetings at the college happen every Friday morning. Employers who are sponsoring staff on courses are invited to attend. Employers have long-standing relationships with the staff, so there is instant feedback.

We have good relationships with some big employers in Plymouth which we've built up in various ways - through staff apprenticeships with the college. We also run short courses and refresher courses, so some of the more experienced staff would also come to the college for short courses and training.

Adele Dawson

Employer Services Manager, Plymouth College

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