From education to employment

Vijay Pattni on AoSEC’s Action for Business Success

Cue deep, throaty voice in a distinctly US accent”¦

“¦In the year 2006, FE colleges around the country were coming to a cataclysmic end. Skills deficits and globalisation were tearing up the economic infrastructure. But one college dared to stand up. One college dared to fight. This is “Apocalypse ““ No Surrender”¦Coming soon to an under-performing college near you”¦”

A tad dramatic, you might say, but the sentiment reverberates among the country’s colleges with no less conviction. As though lifted from the scripts of a hugely over-budgeted Hollywood blockbuster, the crisis currently engulfing our fair nation has met its match ““ at least in the South East anyway.

Action for Business

The Association of South East Colleges has this week released details of a number of colleges within their jurisdiction who have all been accredited with the prestigious Action For Business Award. Of the 64 colleges located in the South East region, 19 have achieved this accreditation, which recognises their commitment to local business needs.

Alan Corbett, Media Officer for the AOSEC, noted: “To obtain the Action for Business Colleges” Accreditation is a major achievement and reflects a level of excellence without parallel”. And, rather pertinently, he continues: “Employers seeking training support can be certain that colleges thus accredited are able to provide training that is exactly focused on client needs.”

Chichester College was one of the first in the region to achieve accreditation in December 2004, and of the 19, the most recent awardees have been Milton Keynes and Farnborough, in Hampshire, receiving theirs in June 2006. In addition to these successes, a further 11 colleges look set to take delivery of this endorsement of their business acumen by the end of March 2007, meaning that nearly half of all South Eastern colleges will be equipped to deal with local businesses and to serve those business interests more specifically.


Catherine Hilton, from the Learning and Skills Council (LSC), elaborated: “Colleges achieving this award have demonstrated that they can provide flexible and responsive provision to employers in their area.” The initiative is spearheaded by the Principal, senior management and governors of the college who then develop employer engagement strategies to develop growth and services to business.

So, how does a college go about achieving this accreditation? “There is a defined standard that has been developed by the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) and Regional Development Agency (RDA) in conjunction with Quality South East. There are 12 units or standards that provide colleges with a robust development and assessment tool based on external accreditation and assessment. This is then endorsed by a Regional Panel who “interview” the college on the outcomes of their assessment.”

She continued: “Colleges will provide bespoke or short courses on or off employer premises at times when it suits employers.” Amidst the debate surrounding the UK skills crisis, Catherine noted the demand-led structure of provision: “Colleges have demonstrated a clear understanding of the needs of businesses in their area, thus the standards aim to help colleges improve their performance and achieve growth though being employer focused and demand led in their approaches to addressing the employer marketplace.”

“Action for Business colleges are designed to deliver a quality service to employers and employees.”

Vijay Pattni

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