Interesting paragraph in the Marchmont Observatory Web Flash:
The new Pearson boss, John Fallon, just last week took a £120 million hit, as he announced plans to close its UK adult-education arm — less than three years after buying the core business, Melorio, for £99 million.
Now I didn’t even realise that Pearson was a big UK vocational training provider. Neither were they, it seems, until 2010 when they bought Meloria which according to the Financial Times provided “training courses for the IT, construction and healthcare industries, areas which Pearson believes will be in demand in its key target markets such as the Middle East, Brazil, India and China.” The company was renamed Pearson in Practice.
At the time Meloria, according to company documents, had 49 training centres in the UK training 150000 people a year. In 2009-10 on revenue of £58.4 million they made an operating profit of £13.6 million.
But it was nothing to do with the so called key target markets that led to Pearson pulling out. The Evening Standard newspaper quotes Dame Marjorie Scardino, predecessor of present Pearson boss John Fallon, of warning last year that adult training was suffering, after trading took a turn for the worse when the Government changed the way apprenticeships were funded.
The Evening Standard goes on to say: “Pearson is now working with the Government-backed Skills Funding Agency and further education colleges to transfer students to other training providers “with a minimum of disruption”. Last year, Pearson in Practice helped to “deliver” 170,000 apprenticeships in the UK and overseas.”
So what can we make of all this? Apprenticeship training in the UK was largely privatiscd with Pearson prepared to pay a big premium for what it saw as easy profits based on government funding. And when that funding didn’t raise the same profits that they had dreamed of they just pulled out. No wonder there have been so many complaints at the quality of apprenticeship training in the UK.
If the UK properly funded vocational education and training providers in the public sector these messes would never happen. And if apprenticeship is to become a proper route for skills and competence, then private companies like Pearson cannot be trusted to provide it.