Get Down to Business; Education: For a Rapid Rise Up the Corporate Ladder, Take Your Pick from the Many Business Courses Now on Offer, Says Sarah Richardson

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WHEN Anne-Laure Vieille signed up to the associate student scheme at Thames Valley University (TVU) she was motivated by an interest in human resources and a desire to do something fun on Saturday mornings.

"TVU was close to where I live in Ealing and I'd heard good things about the course from friends," she says. "I completed their level-one module in management and organisation in June. It was a 15-week programme examining corporate behaviour, workforce management and individual psychology."

Vieille, 28, is now working in retail as an administrative assistant and feels that the course will enhance her employability in the future.

"There were 10 professional people in their twenties and thirties on the course with similar ambitions," she says. "I found it really useful."

Whether you're a school-leaver, an undergraduate, a recent graduate or an employee, unlocking the secrets of commerce has never been easier. Adult learning centres and higher-education colleges, private institutions, universities and online education providers are competing to offer business courses which enhance your understanding and practical skills base.

"The courses on TVU's associate student scheme are modules from some of our undergraduate courses," explains external liaison officer Sukhvinder Chonk.

"It's an initiative to give more people a taste of higher education and is taught through lecture-tutorials. You choose what to study by mixing and matching up to two modules a year.

These include accounting and finance and a business operations and management module for IT skills."

While obtaining a business-orientated module at TVU costs around [pound]75, a three-term course of weekly evening classes at the London Business School costs [pound]9,200. LBS's executive evening programme has been running for more than 30 years and includes courses in investment management corporate finance, and economics.

"A participant may be in their early forties and have worked their way up without formal training," says director of the finance courses Janet Dobson.

"Or they could be 24 and taking the course in lieu of in-house training. We find the best way to teach tired professionals at the end of the day is by structured, participatory lectures. They need to do three or four hours of preparation before each class."

Caitlin Phillips, who works in the structured finance team at BP, completed LBS's corporate finance course in June. "I have an English degree," she says, "so the course gave me some important practical insights into accounting and finance." Caitlin, 29, feels she also learnt a lot from other participants.

"I have no doubt that the course will enhance my CV," she says. "I'm more confident because I have more knowledge of how finance works."

Perhaps you're seeking a brief introduction and overview to grasp the basics. Spend 10 hours online at your PC, for example, on a learndirect course in essential business skills, and you cover such key topics as meeting skills, project management, negotiation skills and written communication skills. The Government initiative learndirect not only offers its own online training programme but also gives information on more than 500,000 courses.

Visit www.learndirect. or call 0800 100 900.

With the Government keen to improve the population's commerce credentials, financial help is on offer through organisations such as the Learning and Skills Council (www. …


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