Further Education is helping businesses to combat the effects of the recession by boosting productivity and skills in an affordable way.
According to new research, UK colleges were able to provide 70 per cent of training in the workplace for small and medium business (SME) last year, training up to 460,000 staff.
However the report by the Association of Colleges (AoC) states that, while bigger businesses rate the work of colleges very highly, there is a misconception among SMEs that college training does not take place on business premises and is not flexible enough to meet their requirements.
The top five sectors that use the services of colleges are: Health & Social Care, Engineering & Manufacturing, Construction, Hospitality Catering & Tourism, and Retail.
According to the report, more than half of businesses trained by colleges employ between one and ten people.
Some 31 per cent employ 11-100 people, 13 per cent have up to 300 employees while three per cent of businesses have more than 500 employees trained by colleges.
The AoC survey also cites the example of the London-based catering company Wilson Jones, which has boosted its business by 15 per cent in the last three years.
Lewisham College provided on-site training for ten apprentices at the company, which supplies catering to 26 schools across London. In addition, the college trained more than 40 other employees on a variety of catering and business NVQ courses. In total, the company employs 120 full-time staff.
Lewisham College offers over 100 different qualifications, with 90 per cent of business training conducted at the client’s site.
Wilson Jones Managing Director Stephanie Spratt commented: “We were really impressed by the high standards of the teaching and resources provided, and the way in which the College was able to deliver a training programme on-site which was so business-friendly.”
Despite the current economic challenges facing businesses, the Twickenham-based company has been awarded a further four major contracts and seen staff retention improve by ten per cent.
To mark the success of the partnership with Lewisham College, Wilson Jones launched a national “Training for Business Growth” campaign, to coincide with Colleges Week 2010. Other colleges around the country are using the week to highlight the value they have provided to UK businesses during the recession.
The success of the Lewisham College initiative comes as the government announces a commitment to devote public spending to SME-focused training programmes in the wake of the Comprehensive Spending Review.
John Hayes, Minister for Further Education, Skills & Lifelong Learning, said: “We need to do everything we can to help businesses play their part in up skilling the workforce, improving the work prospects of young people and help the economy to thrive.”
The government will shortly announce further details of a work-based training programme for SMEs which will replace Train to Gain.
Chris Morecroft, President of the Association of Colleges, speaking at the Wilson Jones launch, said: “This event, and others like it going on around the country, are an excellent opportunity to demonstrate that Colleges are uniquely placed to offer employers high quality, cost effective training in a way which fits around their businesses.”