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Ulster boost for trainers

PRIVATE TRAINING firm Carter and Carter hopes to move on from a stormy three months as it picks up new business in Northern Ireland.

The firm saw its share price collapse after the death of founder Phillip Carter last spring and the subsequent failure to win contracts under the Government's Train to Gain scheme, which it anticipates will lead to the loss of 200 of its 2,500 staff.

It has now signed a deal with the Department for Employment and Learning in Northern Ireland, which, it says, should bring in pound;5 million worth of business over the next three years.

The company becomes one of 54 organisations contracted to carry out training under Ulster's Training for Success scheme, which focuses on vocational skills. Six colleges in the province have also been awarded work under the scheme.

Carter and Carter will provide training in a number of areas including accounting, business, distribution, warehousing, insurance, property services, travel, vehicle selling, light vehicle body and paint work, vehicle parts, vehicle fitting, and vehicle maintenance and repair.

In a further development, which suggests the firm has the confidence of the banks, Carter and Carter has bought Blackwater Training, which has bases near Belfast and Dublin, for pound;980,000.

It is expected that Blackwater will take charge of the Northern Irish contracts as Carter and Carter's English operation focuses on building up the British business particularly contracts with the Learning and Skills Council.

Blackwater was established in 1988 and already specialises in training for the motor trade in the province, including level 3 (A-level equivalent) apprenticeships and assessors' courses.

Carter and Carter hopes the Ulster contract will give it a "foothold" in the province, where business opportunities have opened up as a result of the peace process.

The firm's previous chief executive officer, Phillip Carter, 44, died in May when the twin-engined Squirrel helicopter in which he was being flown crashed in a wood near his country estate. Mr Carter's son Andrew, 17, the pilot and another passenger also died.

Mr Carter founded the company with his wife, Judith the other "Carter" in the firm's name who owns 21 per cent of the shares but is not a director.

Rodney Westhead, chairman and interim chief executive, was unavailable for comment as FE Focus went to press.

But in a statement issued to the City last week, he said: "We are delighted to have made this acquisition, which provides Carter and Carter with a foothold in Northern Ireland.

"This clearly demonstrates the organic growth opportunities in the work-based learning sector."

Carter and Carter's share price has seen some recovery since it fell from pound;12 to 52 pence this year although is has been hovering consistently below pound;1.50 while investors await news of the new chief executive. An announcement is expected in October.

The firm also disclosed last month that it had secured workbased learning work through the LSC worth pound;10m a year.

The only recent departure from the board has been that of Peter Marples, the group business development director, in June. He said he had re-evaluated his life after the death of Mr Carter and had decided to spend more time with his family.

He has continued to work for the firm as a consultant.

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