The government is encouraging colleges to work with businesses in an effort to sell British expertise and training overseas.
New partnerships are being forged between further education institutions and companies looking for a foothold in overseas markets that require a local training commitment as well as a business plan.
Trade Partners UK, a branch of British Trade International, which is part of the Department of Trade and Industry, has teamed up with the British Council to create a database to promote and support such links.
The database, launched last week, will include a directory of colleges that can act as training consultants and providers in a range of business and industry sectors across the world.
According to Ruth Gee, British Council director for vocational partnerships, colleges have a vital role in securing trade deals overseas.
She said: "In many countries such as South Africa a company that wishes to secure a contract has to demonstrate social commitment. This is usually done by providing training for the local people. That's where the colleges come in."
• Universities and colleges have until next Friday to submit entries for the International Student Awards, a new competition organised by the British Council and supported by The THES . The awards, worth up to £2,000 each, recognise the work of international students who are making the most of their time in the UK.