Financially strapped BEST and BRACE working with Frankston rival 

Two long-standing Ballarat training institutions in financial strife have turned to a former rival.

Frankston-based training organisation Skills Plus is now involved in the running of BEST Community Development and BRACE, but Skills Plus chief executive officer Sue Cattermole said it wasn’t a takeover.

They would now work “collaboratively” to see the organisation share resources, expertise and to position itself to secure government contracts, she said.

“We’re working in a long-term partnership,” she said.

“I understand they are really important organisations in the community and they have community interest but we are working to ensure their long-term viability and future.”

A number of jobs have gone at BEST CD and BRACE in recent months but Ms Cattermole said she did not have the figure at hand.

Former boss Phillip Murphy is the latest high-profile departure, leaving the organisation last week.

Mr Murphy, who took over from former BEST boss Ron Stone when he retired last November after 20 years of service, was appointed temporary chief executive officer of BEST CD and BRACE when the Ballarat organisations merged in March.

Mr Cattermole now leads the Ballarat organisation.

She said that following the merger of BRACE and BEST, the organisation had undergone considerable changes to ensure its financial viability. 

“Since the merger, management has needed to make some difficult decisions to ensure the long-term viability of both organisations,” she said.

“A restructure of this scale is always going to require significant changes that in turn impact the clients, employees and the board.

“We are committed to ensuring we remain financially viable in Ballarat and, while some decisions have been difficult, we have a comprehensive plan in place and are already considering new services in 2013.” 

She said many community services organisations were finding it difficult and an effective, viable option was to share resources and work in partnership.

“This is not intended to detract from the work in the local community, rather to enhance the services that are being offered to the most disadvantaged groups in our communities,” she said. 

BEST chief executive Ron Stone and former director Wayne Strong both resigned from the board recently, as did chief financial officer Andrew Henwood.

rachel.afflick@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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