More than 500 jobs have been saved by a college and a training provider after another training provider behind around 10,000 apprenticeships across the country went into administration.

Liverpool Community College teamed up with Derbyshire-based provider 3AAA to buy the “majority” of business from First4Skills.

The Ellesmere Port firm had been allocated £19.8m by the Skills Funding Agency this academic year to run apprenticeships.

But the college and 3AAA stepped in today saving more than 500 jobs. However, it is understood around 40 First4Skills jobs will still be lost in Belfast, plus a number of posts in Wales.

The deal was struck after First4Skills went into administration on September 21, but had been on the cards for a week said a 3AAA spokesperson. The figure behind the deal was not disclosed to FE Week.

It was announced by the college and 3AAA on Monday, September 24, when Elaine Bowker, principal at the 17,000-student college said: “We worked closely with the Skills Funding Agency to achieve this result, which safeguards a large number of jobs and brings together the best practice of the public sector and the resources of the private sector to create an organisation that will be a market leader in apprenticeship training.”

A joint statement from 3AAA directors Peter Marples and Di McEvoy Robinson said: “We first became aware of this opportunity seven days ago and we have been working flat-out to achieve a successful outcome for the business, working with our colleagues at the college.

Our joint venture, which will see 3AAA taking a leading role in the strategic direction of the business, is unique in the sector.”

“There was only one other option for the business, and that was to go into administration with the loss of more than 500 jobs.”

First4Skills, which got a good Ofsted inspection grading for its work-based learning provision in August 2010, had a national client base, including a number of major high street retailers.

The joint venture agreement with 3AAA means the college will be responsible for the training of around 10,000 apprentices – becoming one of the country’s biggest providers of apprentice training.

It will also rank as the fifth largest apprentice trainer of any kind in the country, while continuing to use the First4Skills name.

“This will mean we will be able to penetrate a much bigger market more effectively and quickly, which will benefit the college as a whole,” added Ms Bowker.

The joint statement from the 3AAA directors continued: “Liverpool College has been courageous in responding so quickly, and both their governors and senior management have fully committed to this opportunity.

“Our joint venture, which will see 3AAA taking a leading role in the strategic direction of the business, is unique in the sector. This further underlines our philosophy that there is real power in harnessing the best of the public sector and private sector.

“The hard work now starts, with strong plans for growth across the business. We are really excited to be working with Liverpool Community College as part of their commitment to become a leading provider in apprenticeship delivery across the country.’

For more reaction to the deal see FE Week’s next scheduled edition.

Picture from left: Kyle Humphreys, apprentice and Elaine Bowker, Principal of Liverpool Community College