Training agency falls victim to market forces

November 24, 1995

The Laser Advisory Council is the latest victim of market forces, it emerged last week. Directors of the 50-year-old training agency accepted its inevitable closure before next Easter.

Laser's collapse is being attributed to the public sector squeeze on education and training against which it had campaigned since 1989 when it became independent of local authority control.

A further blow was dealt by City and Guilds which recently withdrew a contract for quality assurance services. The news could not have come at a worse time since Laser was already struggling with a "radical drop" in income from conference and training operations. Income from curriculum development dried up two years ago.

Marketing manager Alastair Barr said: "There is now a lot of competition in the further education sector from organisations we just couldn't compete with." He said the 20 staff of the London and South East Regional Agency were very sad at the closure news and some would leave in the new year.

Laurie South, Laser's chief executive, said he had looked at every option. "Laser has attempted to collaborate and work with other organisations; it has developed new services; and it has recosted all of its services to be realistic and still be fair to those working in education. We are now actively working to safeguard the positive achievements Laser has made to allow some of that work to continue."

The remaining assets will be bequeathed to an appropriate charity although Mr South stressed that the retention of a "shell" company on which the sector could build had not been discounted. Interested parties are being invited to discuss the possibility of taking over Laser as a whole or to make offers for significant aspects of the business including the successful publications operation.

This includes the Compendium of Higher Education and the Regional Index of Courses. He said he was in no doubt that Laser would have to be reinvented at some point.

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