Exclusive: Jobs hope with agreement on Pearson in Practice

The future of around 150 FE jobs might have been saved after a deal was struck “in principle” to buy Pearson in Practice.

The firm, bought as Melorio Plc (consisting of Zenos and Construction Learning World) two years go by Pearson for £99.3m, could soon be renamed Vision Workforce Skills if the deal with West Nottinghamshire College goes through.

College principal Asha Khemka has issued a letter to Pearson in Practice staff outlining her plans for the firm, saying she had “no doubt that together we can grasp the significant opportunities that exist”.

No financial details on the deal — which could be finalised by Wednesday, February 20 — have been released.

Our intention is that Pearson in Practice be transferred to a wholly owned subsidiary company of the college under the name of Vision Workforce Skills.”

It comes just over a month after the future of 560 workers was thrown into jeopardy as Pearson announced it was launching a 90-day consultation on the firm’s closure.

Changes to apprenticeships, including a shift from programmes delivered by training providers toward those delivered by employers, were said to have led bosses to believe the firm was “no longer has a sustainable business model”.

However, addressing Pearson in Practice staff “Dear Colleague,” Mrs Khemka’s letter said: “I am delighted that Pearson and West Nottinghamshire College have reached an agreement in principle and we are now in a position to begin working with you all to share our plans for the future of the company.

“It is our belief that the business can be a strong national work-based learning provider and we are committed to ensuring its long term future as an integral part of the West Nottinghamshire College Group.

“Our intention is that Pearson in Practice be transferred to a wholly owned subsidiary company of the college under the name of Vision Workforce Skills.”

It is understood that around a third of Pearson in Practice staff could be kept on.

However, questions remain as to whether enhanced redundancy packages proposed by Pearson will be honoured by the college if job losses happen once the firm has changed hands.

A college spokesperson, who declined to comment on the redundancy package issue, said: “The college and Pearson PLC have reached agreement in principle regarding the transfer of Pearson in Practice, following Pearson’s decision to exit the business.

“Negotiations are at an advanced stage and we hope formal agreement can be reached early next week. The proposal is based on securing the long-term future of the business.”

A spokesperson for Pearson further confirmed the move, saying it involved “most” of the Pearson in Practice business. He would not specify what elements of the business were involved, but said further details on the deal, if it went ahead, would be issued soon.

If the deal falls through, Pearson could be writing off £120m in closing Pearson in Practice, but the firm would still have a presence in the UK adult training market through TQ Holdings and Gas Logic and Pearson Work Based Learning.

Newcastle College struck a similar deal to take on a struggling national training firm in March 2008 when it acquired Carter and Carter.