Effective Control of Commercial Enterprise Activities in Colleges and Training Providers Can Improve Cash Flow, Increase Profitability and Improve Ofsted Results
Most FE Colleges have some form of commercial enterprise activities taking place on campus. Quite a number of private providers, that teach vocational skills, also follow this pattern. A number opt to moving their commercial activity off campus. They often locate them in town centres where footfall is often higher.
The old agricultural colleges are past masters at commercial enterprises. They had, and most still have, large commercial estates with commercially viable farm enterprises. These have now been expanded to include other commercial activity. this links them to an expanded curriculum.
Everything from arboriculture to zoology uses the estate. In many cases the agricultural activities have expanded to include things like the commercial vineyard
at Plumpton College. At Pershore College they sell cider and juices made at the college and have a garden centre. Others expanded into other forms of food processing, from cheese making to pressing rapeseed. They often sell their branded products through their own shops. Even the gamekeeping courses get a look in with shoots being run on a regular basis, with guns paying for the privilege. Animal Care courses also get involved in commercial activity with kennels, grooming and obedience classes. And equine departments run livery and teaching activities.
Non landbased commercial enterprise activities include restaurants, hair and beauty salons and have done for years.
None of the above is radically new although things like food processing may surprise a few people.
Commercial Enterprise Issues
The major problems we see with commercial enterprise activity centre on the focus being on the needs of the provider rather than the customer and/or student. In many cases access to commercial activities are behind security barriers. This is not conducive to good commercial practice. I’ve never been through security to get a table at a restaurant in the real world.
So why would providers think it acceptable in FE?
Colleges like SEC have overcome this by having all commercial enterprises being accessible from the street. Security is still considered important, but so is customer access.
Opening hours is also a commercial constraint for many providers. They tell me that for teaching and curriculum reasons they cannot operate during evenings, early mornings or out of term time. Limited opening hours limit their reach and diminish the student experience. However other colleges, Shrewsbury is an example, open for long hours. Restaurants that serve breakfast, morning coffee, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner, throughout the year, are really sweating their assets, providing a great customer service, a brilliant student experience and contributing to income generation.
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