Education business partnership BXL falls into administration

BIRMINGHAM-based education business partnership BXL has gone into administration after failing to combat an inherited pension deficit and cuts to Government funding.

The organisation, one of the most successful education business partnerships in the UK up until its demise, has been supporting more than 20,000 young people every year.

The charity, which employs 26 people, has a turnover of approximately £1m.

The partnership will continue to operate for the next two weeks while a new operator is sought. Tony Barrell, Matthew Hammond and Ian Oakley-Smith, of PwC have been appointed joint administrators.

BXL had been providing a valuable support role within the West Midlands, including organising more than 10,000 work placements every year, running taster sessions for primary school children and delivering essential job skills training.

The organisation said it hoped that if a deal was agreed, the new owners would continue to build on the work of its Partnership Centres at Jaguar Land Rover and Redcliffe Catering.

John Ling, who had been chief executive of the partnership, said: “This is a very sad day for the West Midlands and is yet another blow to young people who potentially will no longer have access to essential work placement opportunities, work related learning and links with the region’s business community.

“We have been battling against a substantial pension deficit for some time, one that we unfortunately inherited as part of the local authorities of Birmingham and Solihull taking over the Connexions contract in 2008.”

He said the board had explored every opportunity to try and resolve the issue but to no avail.

“We’ve also had problems with massive cuts in Government funding, policy confusion over work experience and an education system that is yet to fully understand the impact of huge changes in how career advice will be delivered in the future,” he added.

“Working with administrators PwC, we have identified a number of local organisations who have shown an interest in acquiring the debt-free operations of BXL and are still hopeful for a successful solution for the region.”

The organisation dates back to 1987 when it started life as the Birmingham’s Heartland Compact before going through numerous incarnations, including the Business Education Partnership, the CEBP and, in 2002, Connexions.

BXL, which is Institute of Business Excellence accredited, was formed in 2008 to take over the business education service of Connexions and has subsequently worked with nearly 50,000 young people and almost every school across Birmingham and Solihull.

It was seen as a good way of engaging with large numbers of young people and giving them a chance to experience vocational learning onsite at high profile employers, such as JLR and Redcliffe.

The partnership has more than 5,000 companies on its database; a resource considered to be unique within the West Midlands.

“This means we have access to a massive pool of commercial goodwill employee volunteering and work placements. If we are going to solve this youth unemployment crisis, surely these contacts and knowledge are too good to just throw away. We may never get them back again,” said Mr Ling.

It is anticipated that any deal will see BXL’s 26 employees transferred to the new organisation.