A training and qualifications firm based in the West Midlands is one of the few businesses to raise a smile during the recession.
Nigel Snook, chief executive of Education Development International, who announced a rise in pre-tax profits of 50 per cent, said: “We’re a little ray of sunshine in gloomy days.”
The company netted sales of £21.5million in the year ending September 2008 and remained positive about its prospects.
Financial results were described by Mr Snook as “very healthy”, with no borrowing and £3million in the bank.
In response to 2008’s successful figures, EDI upgraded its 2009 forecasts by three per cent and predicted an eight per cent increase in profit before tax for 2010. “We believe that the more difficult the economic conditions, the more people will be looking for training support,” Mr Snook said. “We’re not being cocky, we don’t think it is going to be easy, but I guess we are in a slightly more comfortable place than many other organisations may be.
“An awful lot of what we do in the UK can ultimately find its way back to government programmes. So there is insulation and resilience there. In addition, companies that are trying to be competitive will continue to develop and train their staff - most organisation’s competitive edge comes through their staff. And even individuals who are worried about redundancies and losing their house are keen to train.
“In times of recession people do tend to look at their personal, corporate and national skills base and turn to us to provide services for that demand.”
The company specialises in vocational training in the UK and internationally, with over 140,000 students in the UK from 1,400 colleges sitting EDI’s exams.
Mr Snook is confident that the company can continue to grow. Earlier this month EDI provided training schemes for Sainsbury’s employees, with staff able to sit exams for formal qualifications in stock-taking and store working as well as basic maths and literacy skills.
The Coventry-based firm has initiated similar programmes with the Victoria and Albert museum in London, and is developing its partnerships with employers.
“Successful companies, the ones which will survive and grow, will certainly continue to train and invest in their staff,” he said.“Owing to changes we made about a year ago we can work directly with major employers to train their workforce.”
He rejected suggestions that tough economic times would make companies reassess their budgets and cut down on training. “Companies that really know what they are doing realise that if they stop investing in people, then they are effectively stopping investing in the heart and soul of the business,” he said. “So unless people have really got their backs against the wall, it tends to work the other way.”
Part of EDI’s success is down to a thriving business in Asia. The company merged in 2002 with the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry exam board, and estimates that 15 per cent of their business is derived from a strong Asian demand for English-language business accreditation.