Several weaknesses were identified at the Laird Foundation in Birkenhead when its inspection report was published by the Training Standards Council in 2000.
Since then, the operation has had to cope with the increased pressure of re-training modern apprentices laid off by the neighbouring Cammell Laird shipyard. Out of this adversity, however, has come a brighter future for the apprentices and the foundation itself.
Eighty-five per cent of the foundation's 234 engineering MAs were from the yard when receivers took it over in 2001. The foundation and Merseyside Learning and Skills Council enabled 68 per cent of the MAs to find jobs elsewhere and helped 65 per cent finish their courses ahead of schedule.
The foundation's inspection grades have improved in key areas, such as engineering, management of training, and quality assurance.
The re-inspection report, by the Adult Learning Inspectorate, which replaced the Training Standards Council, remarks on the "consistently high achievement at level 2 NVQ", although there has been "slow progress" at level 3.
The foundation, which was always a separate company from Cammell Laird but had strong links with the shipbuilder, was set up in 1998, and supports engineering apprentices in Merseyside.
Most of the trainees apply directly to the foundation for places and are then matched up with employers after a selection test.
ALI was particularly impressed by the foundation's schools link programme which is aimed at 14 to 16-year-olds. The project involved older trainees acting as mentors to provide pupils with an early taste of vocational training.
Three learners who were made redundant by the Cammell Laird receivers have been employed as technicians by the foundation. They have qualified as coaches and are now training to become assessors.
"They are a great asset to to the Laird Foundation because they relate so well to school pupils and learners," said the report.