Some things to consider:
If at all possible visit the training centre to view the facilities, speak to the tutors and speak to the students. We advise that you view the facilities at the end of a course so you can observe the level of work that is achieved, and also you will receive more accurate feedback from students; everyone is happy at the start of a course, but at the end of the course they will tell you if they thought it was worthwhile and good value for money. Ask to speak to students on their own if need be.
Look through a companies website. Does the website give you a lot of information about the course or is it very vague? Are prices published? If not it maybe a reason to get you on the phone to hard sell you a course.
Check photo’s published on websites, Facebook etc. How big are the bays you are learning in? What materials are used, just plastic pipe or plastic and copper pipe? Will you actually use the skills you learned, it may look good on a picture but will you actually do it when you leave the centre?
Be wary of what you read on forums on the internet as many of these are sponsored by training companies. This limits the negative feedback posted for those that sponsor and limits input and information on courses from training centres who do not sponsor the site.
If the company needs to send a sales representative (or course advisor!?!) out to you instead ask for a detailed pack to be posted that includes all prices and timescales. If they are not willing to do this then please be careful, if they do but also insist that a course advisor meets with you still be careful. Some centres will insist that someone visits you to discuss the courses available and that both you and your partner need to be at home to meet them. This is because it is usually a requirement for the payment plan that they will attempt to set you up with, usually with high APR. If you do meet with someone in your own property get as much information as possible and don’t sign anything on the day, instead take some time out to check what you have been told. In the past some companies were not even approved centres but brokers.
Check companies house to check the history of a company. Is the website saying they have been around for 15 years but companies house is only saying 5 years. Does companies house list a number of companies with very similar company names and address which were dissolved and new companies formed? If so why were they dissolved?
Enquire how much practical training is involved in the course as some centres that run courses will include hours and hours of classroom work. We recently heard of someone who attended a four week tiling course that involved approximately two weeks of classroom work which was not totally relevant but dragged out to save the costs associated with material usage.
Enquire if they use the materials that are actually used in the trade. To save costs some centres will use substitute materials that can be reused, but your confidence will come with using the actual materials that you will use in the workplace. Some centres have been known to lay floor tiles without adhesive, only use sand and lime mixtures on short plastering courses.
Enquire if the centre will provide you with support afterwards as you will find this beneficial in the months to follow. Make sure you can contact a person and are not expected to use a forum for support.
Centres that run courses in more than one trade are not an issue as long as that company does not use the same tutor for all the courses. If they have separate training areas each with their own tutors then you will receive quality training with the benefit of being able to discuss queries relating to other trades with the tutors whilst at the training centre. You may also benefit from discounts if you complete more than one course.
Be aware of some complete training packages available. Some centres offer a suite of courses at high costs where these courses can be purchased individually at separate centres at lower costs. Also centres will offer you a package including a tool kit that they advertise would cost £1000+ when in fact it would cost alot less if you bought the items yourself. Always ask for a list of tools and the brand names of the tools and shop around.
Some people still think that if you go to a main FE college courses are cheaper. This might not actually be the case especially if you are over 24 as a lot of government funding for courses for people over 24 has been cut.
Ask how many people are on a course at anyone time. Are you really going to get the same level of training for a course if there are 15 people on it? And if all courses are only run with 4 people on then how much materials actually get used. Building materials are not cheap, experienced tradespeople are not cheap.