Putting Train to Gain out of its misery was a little like saying farewell to a friend who has taken a long time to die. Along with a new £250 million for 75,000 additional apprenticeship places, they were the headlines for us in George Osborne’s much-awaited Comprehensive Spending Review.
Meanwhile, having absorbed those two widely-anticipated shocks, we smaller training providers await the detail. What will be the scope, cost and take-up of adult student loans among working – and non-working – older people who need to obtain new skills?
The cut in funding to help non-English speakers learn the language will affect some. Most of the changes in Welfare to Work provision have also been spelt out in dribs and drabs, including the need to find new partners and prime contractors.
What we do know is that almost half-a-million government employees will come off the public payroll with many looking for new jobs. Will government offer anything in retraining – and could a conversion course in how to work for the private sector prove rewarding?
What we also know is that change on this scale will prove the pessimists right. It is going to hurt, especially those who believed current chickens would continue laying golden eggs forever. We must all wish ALP well in its fight to retain some work-based adult, and basic, skills.
But change invariably brings opportunities. Many of us smaller providers (less than 5,000 learners) must show yet again that SMEs are the real engine of growth in this industry as in others, and are truly innovative and fast on our feet. We can and will find solutions to new challenges.
I believe the great bulk of smaller learning organisations are well placed to achieve even greater success. We have the advantage of expertise in our specialist fields, as well as flexibility and trained, committed workforces.
So long as we offer higher quality with measurable efficiency, and continue to invest in doing it better, rather than cheaper, we shall not only survive but compete profitably.
As those details become clearer, we can see where the gaps occur and where we can beat the muscle-bound mega-firms to the deals. I hope to spell out where shortly.
Roderick (Roger) Lynch is founder and chief executive of Ruskin Private Hire and its training arm, Robust Training. He features in the power list of the 100 most influential black people in Britain, and is a past Black Entrepreneur of the Year