Colleges in Birmingham have hit out at a new partnership to create 3,000 apprentices in the city after claiming that they were frozen out of taking part in the scheme.
Principals from a number of colleges have written letters of complaint to the Birmingham Chamber Group after it was announced that it would be partnering with Birmingham Metropolitan College to deliver the apprenticeships.
Industry sources claim the colleges are unhappy that a deal has been done with a college whose principal, Dr Christine Braddock, will be sworn in as the first female president of the chamber this week.
The source said: “The principal of Birmingham Metropolitan College is connected to the chamber and she seems to have negotiated an exclusive deal and that seems to be a conflict of interest.
“The other point is that all the colleges who have written are members of the chamber, and so what has happened here is that there is an exclusive arrangement which is detrimental to the work of other colleges.
"No other college has been given the opportunity to be in the scheme, and we believe that it is in the interests of the chamber and its members that such actions should be transparent.”
The scheme, which was announced by Universities Minister David Willetts and aims to reduce unemployment in Birmingham, will be supported by some of the region’s largest public and private sector companies across a range of industries.
The Chamber Group will be encouraging its 9,000 members and affiliates across the region to place 3,000 young people into jobs in the next three years.
Nick Varney, regional spokesman for the Universities and Colleges Union, said he was “concerned” that students who did not live close to the campus would not have access to the scheme.
He said: “We are concerned about provision and making sure it is distributed fairly, and most importantly that learners are not disadvantaged by all the eggs being put in one basket.
“The idea of further education colleges is that they are fundamentally part of the public sector and serve the community where they sit.”
College principal and chief executive Dr Braddock, has said the college was “well placed” to meet training needs.
Speaking when the scheme was announced last week, she said: “We know there is a renaissance in the manufacturing fortunes of the region with traditional manufacturing firms being replaced by companies focusing on the ‘new technology’ sectors.
“We already have many good news stories about current apprentices; a number who have progressed on to degree programmes as part of their apprenticeships and are enjoying well paid careers.”
Birmingham Metropolitan College has already worked with companies with apprenticeship programmes, including Samsung Premier Service Network, BSkyB, BMW, Cadbury, Dixons Retail and Eon.
A spokesman for Birmingham Chamber Group said: “We are in the process of responding to those colleges who have approached us on this issue.”