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Planned closure of training firms puts hundreds of jobs at risk

By James Pugh | Walsall | Business | Published:

Up to 300 jobs are under threat at England's largest college group, after it announced plans to close its two private training providers.

Townend House, Walsall, which houses Rathbone

Staff at Intraining and Rathbone Training, which are part of NCG and have offices in Birmingham, Walsall and Wolverhampton, are being consulted on the redundancies.

The providers currently train 4,500 learners between them, of which two-thirds are apprentices. Some could be forced to find alternative providers if the centres do end up closing.

Intraining had already shed more than a third of its 1,200 workforce back in 2015. But the staff-cutting efforts do not appear to have been enough to save the providers.

Intraining and Rathbone Training made a £3.6 million loss in 2017-18.

"We have opened consultation with Intraining and Rathbone staff on some fundamental changes to the way in which we operate in England, including the closure of our network of training centres and a radical refocussing of our apprenticeship proposition," a spokesman for NCG said.

"Intraining and Rathbone accounted for less than 20 per cent of group revenue in 2017/18. The changes we are proposing will strengthen NCG's already robust position, supporting our ambition to invest in teaching, learning and facilities.

"The unfortunate effect of these proposals would be substantial redundancies in Intraining and Rathbone. We will confirm our future plans once the consultation has concluded."

The spokesman confirmed the providers currently employs over 400 people across 19 centres, and 300 jobs were now at risk.

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He said that moving forward, it will "put the interests of learners first and support them to finish their programmes wherever possible".

"If we proceed as currently proposed following consultation, we will in future operate a single, smaller, digitally-enabled business focussed on delivery of high-quality apprenticeships for the tech, management and professional occupations," the spokesman added.

NCG, which is chaired by former Education and Skills Funding Agency chief executive Peter Lauener, has ran into trouble in recent years.

Achievement rates across the group fell way below the national average in 2016/17, staff at its colleges in London went on strike in a row over pay last year, and a free school that the group sponsored, the Discovery School, was forced to close down by the government.

All this happened before Ofsted downgraded the group from 'good' to 'requires improvement'.

NCG comprises Newcastle College, Newcastle Sixth Form College, Lewisham College, Southwark College, Carlisle College, Kidderminster College, West Lancashire College, Rathbone Training and InTraining.

James Pugh

By James Pugh
@JamesP_Star

Shropshire Star Business and Farming Editor.

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