Blackburn College in £6.5m Rwanda deal


By Nafeesa Shan

BLACKBURN College has signed a £6.5m contract with the Rwandan government to help the civil war-ravaged country’s economy on to its feet.

Staff will provide business training to fledgling entrepreneurs to boost the African country’s fragile economy following the genocide which saw the murder of up to one million people.

Principal Ian Clinton said the contract was vital to the future financial security of the college, which is expecting to be around £750k a year out of pocket because of government funding cuts.

And he vowed that students would not suffer even though staff would be sent abroad to teach the courses.

Mr Clinton said the deal was just one of a number of contracts the college had secured which would see it go ‘global’.

The college is set to provide all the hospitality training for staff working during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia and is undertaking disaster management courses in China.

It is hoping to generate more contracts through the British Council after being named its sole representative to all further education colleges in South Africa.

Mr Clinton said: “We see this as an insurance policy. If the government don’t cover us financially we know we can earn it elsewhere.

“This way we can keep redundancies to a minimum, our students won’t find there are massive cuts and we can maintain a good level of service.

“Without this the college would be three quarters of a million pounds worse off this year and it certainly would make things a lot tougher and put more pressure on jobs.

“We are hoping to gain £1million of profit and that money will keep people in jobs and provides many resources for students and staff.”

Mr Clinton, chair of governors Sir Bill Taylor and other senior staff members, spent three days negotiating with the Rwandan government in Africa before signing a memorandum of understanding worth £1.385million a year for five years.

He said that contract would equate to a 30 per cent profit for the college.

As part of the deal the college will deliver business and management training to 5,000 business people and entrepreneurs in three month courses.

Mr Clinton said the country’s leaders were aware that little or no money could be made from farming and saw future economic growth through entrepreneurship, such as call centres.

As part of the deal the college has been tasked by the president’s wife to give women and girls skills as an added boost to the economy as it recovers from the 1994 genocide.

In just 100 days, 800,000 Tutsis in the country were slaughtered.

Ministers flew back early from meetings in New York in order to meet the college representatives and secure the contract.

Mr Clinton said: “Rwanda has a bad reputation because of the genocide.

“The problem is they lack the experience in business.

“Blackburn College has 123 years history and they have had four to five years to get further education together.

“We hope in five years that they will have the skills to deliver the courses themselves.”

While Mr Clinton had been concentrating on Africa, staff have also been generating business in Russia and China and another in the Middle East.

In Sochi, the college will be working with colleges and universities to teach short courses in hospitality and management courses.

The lecturers will go over to Russia and teach the subject in English.

As part of the course students will take part in a three to four week exchanges in Blackburn.

And this week the college has secured another hospitality contract in Belarus.

Sir Bill said college leaders had put together a strategy in 2007 to help it cope during the recession, which included plans to look further afield, share expertise and encourage growth.

He said: “This is quite a feather in our caps.

“We already have a number of students coming to Blackburn College from Gulf States to do fire safety training and we’ve had students come here from South Africa and Rwanda.

“Our first priority is to make sure we cater for all the needs of people in Blackburn with Darwen but while we’ve got these opportunities we need to make the best of them.

“The more we attract people the more we can do to make the campus a 21st Century campus.”



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