Training Provider Torment

I can take no more of thisGetting a job in the construction industry is difficult enough in the current economic climate but without the relevant skills card and safety certificates you might find it near impossible. The Site Safety Plus certificates for managers and supervisors are becoming an essential prerequisite these days and if, like me, you don’t have these you’ll struggle to get work – especially as many agencies and main contractors take a simple tick box approach to recruitment these days. If you can’t tick the box you can’t get a job.

So you may think that arranging this for yourself is a simple matter of finding a local course provider and paying the relevant fee? Well maybe not, as my experience is proving.  I looked for providers offering the SSSTS (two day supervisor’s course) in the Southampton area and this is how I got on.

First up was HCS Safety in Southampton. A course was available on 21st and 22nd at a cost of £295 plus vat (which is about the standard price for this course) so I promptly booked my place. Unfortunately, I received an email shortly afterwards to say the course was now fully booked but would I like to register for the next date which wasn’t until the following month. As I wanted to get on with it and there seemed to plenty of other providers I declined.

Overall, it was a shame that I failed at my first attempt but in all fairness to HCS, I did book very near to the actual day and the response was swift and polite.

Next, was a company called Phoenix Health & Safety who claim to run courses all over the country. The cost was £275, which is slightly below the average, and they had dates suitable in Southampton, Bristol and London. Alas this company never replied to my inquiry – which was somewhat baffling considering  they spend a fortune on advertising?

Anyway, nil points for Phoenix.

SMSTS Training were next on the list (also trading as MSM Safety) and here things started to look up. Not only did they have a place available on the 15th May but the fee was just £250 plus vat, which is much cheaper than anywhere else. The course was to be held in Huntingdon, near Cambridge, which wasn’t ideal but the lower cost made up for the extra travel expense and slight inconvenience.

I promptly submitted my booking and awaited confirmation and details of the course location – and this is where it got interesting. It turned out the course was actually run by West Anglia Training Association (WATA) and they have an assisted places scheme where they’ll discount the cost by 20% if you are funding the course yourself. They also offer one free place a year for each of the courses they run – so potentially there is a chance I wouldn’t have had to pay at all.

However, when I inquired about this I was informed that I wouldn’t be eligible as I had booked via an external provider. I was very upset about this as I didn’t know that SMSTS were simply acting as an agent and duly cancelled my place out of principal. I should point out that I was contacted by someone at WATA shortly afterwards who was very nice and apologetic. She suggested I re-book directly for the next course and assured me I would be considered for the free place scheme. Alas, the next course isn’t until September so that wasn’t much comfort.

Full marks to WATA though and I only wish I had discovered them earlier.

So now I was running out of time and patience – since I have spent the past week getting nowhere. Last, and maybe also least, was XYZ Training – I know you have to expect trouble with a name like that? Anyway, they had a course in London on the 17th & 18th May and I thought I would just book it and have done with it. The travel to London would be a burden but the fee for the course was just £240 plus vat – so not all bad.

I received a prompt confirmation so started to make travel arrangements. I visited Southampton Central Station and explained where and when I need to be and what the best option was. The bloke in the ticket office was very helpful and explained I would be better buying a week’s season ticket for £140 rather than buying two return tickets which would be slightly more and less flexible.

Now, thankfully, I decided I’d wait for proper confirmation before committing to buying the ticket – which was just as well because shortly afterwards I received an email to say the course was cancelled.

Cancelled for what I don’t know – maybe there never was a course to start with, who knows? Anyway, XYZ – I don’t give an XYZ!!

So after a week of trying I am no nearer getting on a course than I was to start with. My plan of action is to go back to HCS Safety and book for the course next month.

It would seem to me that many of these so called training providers are nothing more than middle-men who are simply trying to make a fast buck. I don’t know how many courses actually take place each week but it’s safe to say that it’s a lot fewer than might first appear?

What I guess happens is that there a few genuine providers who run a course every month or so. They’ll get direct inquiries but a lot of business will probably come from these third parties  who put themselves in the picture simply by optimizing for search engines. The only way to beat them is not to use them but with so few genuine providers around it looks like they are not going to go away anytime soon?

If you are booking a course for yourself or for a company then it makes sense to have a good look around first and check the business you’re dealing with is the actual provider of the course being offered. And if you also find a company who gives you a bad time let us know about it.

5 thoughts on “Training Provider Torment”

  1. Quite an interesting review but just to clarify the situation regarding SMSTS Training MSM Safety have been in existence since 1992 and the web site for all CITB training is The article suggests that the cost for the 5 Day SMSTS course was £250 + vat interestingly we did not run a course on the suggested date of 15th May. The relationship with West Anglia was purely that we used the venue.

    • Thank you for your comment. The date in question was 15th May 2012 and you did take a booking for the course as detailed above.
      It is accepted that MSM Safety are an established and reputable training provider but the fact remains that the course in question was available to book directly via West Anglia Training at a lower price.

  2. thats interesting, im having issues with xyz at the moment, first the course was booked, then they changed it by one day, then they said what they quoted me was less than they should have – may I point out that I had already paid, now they saying they wont take us on the course because weve not paid enough

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