Finding the balance for working in partnership

Of the many challenges facing the FE Sector today, getting the right balance between working with private training providers and being self- sufficient is one that continues to challenge college principals and their senior leadership teams.

We all know the history of poor franchising and sub contracts, and many of the horror stories that surround colleges and learners involved with unscrupulous and poor quality training providers.
However, amongst all of the hype, hysteria and headlines there are many successful examples of when real partnership working continues to meet the goals and aspirations of many colleges.

So how should it be done? Private training should work along very similar reporting lines to the way that many colleges operate their college departments and directorates. There should be regular review meetings, joint quality assurance methods with partners and open and transparent data management for all partners.

Regardless of the size or value of contracts, senior personnel should meet with college staff on a regular basis to ensure high levels of confidence in the relationship. The aim of these meetings should be to ensure that working in partnership should never create problems – it should solve them.

The aim of these meetings should be to ensure that working in partnership should never create problems- it should solve them. ”

For any partnership to work between a college and training provider it is crucial that the following key characteristics exist:

• A mutually trusting and transparent relationship at all levels.

• Strong and clear lines of communication

• Appropriate quality assurance arrangements
Providing these essential elements are in place, partnerships are in a position to be able to deliver the following benefits;

• Extend the college’s reach into its local community and economy.
Good training providers can add value to a college’s curriculum offer, often by providing niche services in a cost effective and high quality manner.

They have their own network within the relevant business communities, and their own experienced staff who understand the needs of these sectors.

• Supporting the achievement of targets for income and participation.

Good training providers are able to turn delivery projects around quickly with high success rates. They provide a swift response to opportunities and can be used flexibly to realign resources when challenged with meeting college recruitment and achievement targets.

• Provide a healthy financial contribution to college overheads

Good partnerships are more cost effective. Where there are high levels of trust, partnership delivery can be low risk and provide low application costs to help to deliver programmes economically in today’s environment of significantly reduced funding for colleges. In order to streamline their partnership operations many colleges are reducing the number of partners they work with on an annual basis to only a handful.

For the training providers who are selected to be one of the successful few, the future will be one of extended and diversified participation in an increased share of programme provision, student recruitment and work-based training as well as the opportunity to play a greater role in supporting the sector to achieve its planned objectives.


By Mick Cox

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