Middlesbrough College has acquired the training arm of the North East Chamber of Commerce (NECC), which currently delivers around 1,000 apprenticeships per year.

NECC Training has a £3m turnover and provides courses in a range of subjects, including engineering, professional services and dental nursing across the north east region.

Middlesbrough College already offers around 1,000 apprenticeships, which cover the technical, professional and service industries.

The combined organisations will create one of the largest apprenticeship providers in the north of England and will aim to offer a wider range of services, including higher apprenticeships, traineeships and grant support for businesses.

When the takeover is complete, 70 NECC Training staff will move to join the Middlesbrough College group.

It comes after Skills Minster Nick Boles urged colleges to increase their apprenticeship provision to compete with training providers, in speaking at the Association of Colleges (AoC) conference in November 2015.

He commented that “37 per cent of all funding for apprenticeship training will go to FE colleges in 2015/16, but 60 per cent goes to private training providers”, adding: “Why on earth are you letting these guys nick your lunch?”

Mr Boles entreated colleges to “sign up to a shared ambition that by 2020 FE colleges will be responsible for two thirds, not one third, of all apprenticeship training and will receive two thirds of what will be a much larger pot of funding”.

Middlesbrough College is the only provider in recent years to have made the move to acquire a training provider, in order to extend its offer.

In August 2012 for example, Chesterfield College purchased Training Services 2000, a Derby-based private training provider that offers apprenticeships, and in September 2015, The Manchester College bought Total People, an apprenticeship training provider in Cheshire.

FE Week raised this with the AoC, but it declined to comment on whether it saw colleges acquiring training providers as a growing trend.

Commenting on Middlesbrough College’s purchase of NECC Training, James Ramsbotham, chief executive of the NECC, said: “NECC campaigns strongly for improvements in the delivery of skills for North East businesses, which is a key focus of our members.

“The decision to sell NECC Training was not taken lightly, but our board agrees this move offers the best possible future for both our core membership business and NECC Training.

He added: “In Middlesbrough College, NECC is confident that we have found a training provider that shares our commitment to the north east business community and who will provide the infrastructure and support needed to ensure this business is fit for purpose in in the years ahead.”

Zoe Lewis, principal and chief executive of Middlesbrough College (pictured above), said: “This marks a significant milestone in the college’s development as we welcome the 70 NECC training staff into the Middlesbrough College group.

“NECC Training is a perfect fit for Middlesbrough College as we continue to adapt, expand and bespoke our training solutions and continue to support the LEPs [local enterprise partnerships] and combined authorities with their inward investment training needs.”

In recent years Middlesbrough College has secured a number of contracts with local companies and also invested £20m in the development of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) training facilities and programmes.

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