I had mixed emotions when I heard Skills Minister Nick Boles’s new apprentice set off the security alarms on his first day of work at Portcullis House. This also involved the evacuation of Westminster Underground station. I had a similar experience, too.

Many years ago when as a young 16-year-old trainee hotel manager working as a commis chef, I set fire to a chip pan which resulted in Birmingham New Street Station being evacuated. The Queens Hotel, now demolished, had its kitchens at platform level of New Street Station.

While I quickly extinguished the flames from my pan, the grease and dirt in the ventilation system caught fire and spread the length of the hotel and emerged in the British Railways buffet at the far end of the platform.

A major alert evacuated the station and at that time the Post Office sorting office below the station. To add to the chaos, all signals controlling the main line trains speeding to Birmingham were put to red.

Needless to say, the British Rail bosses no longer considered me suitable management material, but I was offered a job as a chef at three times my trainee salary.

HIT scooped another award last week getting into ‘The Times and Investec Mid-Market 100 fastest growing private companies’ in the UK, albeit at number 97.

Whatever fees an FE provider charges its sub-contractors, the services offered must be listed and the prices justified to avoid the colleges and independent providers involved giving our sector more bad publicity

At the awards ceremony, one of the speakers was Sherry Coutu CBE, who holds directorships in the London Stock Exchange, Zoopla, Cambridge University Press and LinkedIn among others. She outlined her research and forthcoming report into the importance of government ‘supporting high growth firms to scale-up their operations rather than concentrating on new start-ups’.

A statistic that amazed me was that while the mid-market private companies with a turnover of £10m-plus only account for 1 per cent of all listed companies at Companies House, they collectively employ 25 per cent of the working population in the private sector.

Indeed, this UK mid-market generates nearly £1tn annually and employs six million people.

So when colleges and providers are looking to engage with local employers, engaging with those in the mid-market sector would have the most beneficial growth to the local economy.

I am glad FE Week has tackled the thorny problem of sub-contracting fees [see edition 119]. When we started HIT eight years ago we obtained two small Learning and Skills Council Train to Gain contracts in the West of England and London and in the rest of the country relied on 42 sub-contracts from FE colleges. Their fees ranged from 10 per cent to 40 per cent and in those days they offered no support services at all.

I am glad FE Week has tackled the thorny problem of sub-contracting fees

Whatever fees an FE provider charges its sub-contractors, the services offered must be listed and the prices justified to avoid the colleges and independent providers involved giving our sector more bad publicity.

Sub-contracting to primes in the Department for Work and Pensions is well-regulated and transparent.

Ironically, the Education Funding Agency has no data on its sub-contractors, although this may change now it has a joint chief executive with the Skills Funding Agency (SFA).

The SFA has a duty to make sub-contracting transparent and the fees levied explained to provide value for money otherwise we will have another plethora of Channel 4 or Panorama type programmes and angry national press articles rubbishing the sector.