Millions spent on apprentice firms without scrutiny

 
Prime Minister David Cameron meets apprentices Boosting apprenticeships has been a key coalition government initiative

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Huge amounts of public money have been handed to private companies to train apprentices with little scrutiny over how it is being spent.

BBC Panorama found that nearly £250m worth of contracts went to large subcontractors in 2011 which have not been inspected by Ofsted.

This is because of a loophole in the government's £1.4bn training scheme.

Some of the companies involved did not even have jobs to offer young people who signed on as apprentices.

The programme also found evidence of a training firm forging paperwork to try to gain accreditations.

Gold standard

In 2011, the government in England spent £1.4bn to create more than 450,000 apprenticeships, a 63% rise on the previous year.

In order to meet demand for apprenticeships, further education colleges are increasingly subcontracting work to private training firms.

Unlike colleges, these firms are not subjected to regular inspection.

In the case of one subcontractor, Forward Thinking Training Solutions, a painting and decorating apprenticeship for an NVQ was to be delivered in 16 weeks, rather than the year that industry experts say it should take to properly train an apprentice.

The company went into administration last month.

Panorama: Find out more

BBC Panorama logo
  • Shelley Jofre presents Panorama: The Great Apprentice Scandal
  • BBC One, Monday, 2 April at 20:30 BST

Scott Upton, vice principal of Sandwell College in Birmingham, said a formal apprenticeship is the "gold standard of vocational training" and rushing candidates through an apprenticeship programme will devalue the entire system.

"When you get new entrants into the market wanting to put people through as quickly as possible without providing the highest quality, that's got to be a cause for concern."

At another firm - JML Dolman in Wolverhampton - Allan Middleton, who left the firm 5 weeks ago, was an internal verifier for apprentices.

Mr Middleton said he understood the company was being paid £9,000 for each apprenticeship completion award issued.

It was his job to verify the apprentices' work had been done, which would allow JML Dolman to draw down more funding. He said he refused to do so but found evidence it was happening anyway.

Whistleblower

But in a statement to Panorama, JML Dolman denied the £9,000 per apprenticeship figure, calling it "substantially inaccurate".

The firm went on to state: "Mr Middleton was a disgruntled ex-employee (who) was in large part responsible for the very issues he is now seeking to highlight."

JML Dolman said there had been no deliberate attempt to deceive or mislead: "There were administrative failings which resulted in mistakes being made. These were genuine errors.

"As soon as these anomalies were identified... those responsible were dismissed and systems put in place to ensure there could be no recurrence of these problems.

"With regard to those cases mentioned…none of these individuals ever received certification and we claimed no payment."

The company added that an inspection undertaken by an external verifier gave JML "a clean bill of health".

But a current employee has told the BBC that the problems still exist.

The whistle-blower told the programme that paperwork obtained by Panorama that shows apprenticeships as complete, could not have been at the time they were signed off because the firm did not employ an assessor then.

In their statement to the programme, JML Dolman said: "At no time has there been any hiatus in the provision of assessors at JML."

John Hayes, Minister for Skills and Lifelong Learning, said the government will act on subcontractors.

"The crackdown on subcontractors that aren't delivering will be relentless," he said. "This is not something we were not aware of in terms of the overall picture, the character of subcontracting is something that I was sufficiently concerned about, in order to insist that we tighten the screw."

Panorama: The Great Apprentice Scandal, BBC One, Monday, 2 April at 20:30 BST and then available in the UK on the BBC iPlayer.

 

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  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 72.

    Typical of the Tories double standards

    We need an election NOW

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 71.

    what with the revelations,ill concieved advice that caused a near fatality,the big brother attitude we should not sleep soundly in our beds this evening. what has been unleashed in the guise of a govt should scare and fill with dread every right minded person in the land. god save britain from this wretched govt coalition. the only ones we can rely on is the weak livered liberals. my god!!!!

  • rate this
    +10

    Comment number 70.

    ''How can wealth persuade poverty to use its political freedom to keep wealth in power? Here lies the whole art of Conservative politics in the twentieth century.''

    Aneurin Bevan 1952

    & 21st

    Happy Diamond Jubilee

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 69.

    56.StVitus - I totally agree with you there. Recently had a young guy talk to me about making goals and motivating myself. He was telling me how he's never been unemployed cos he's always had the motivation to keep looking. He gave an impressive list of positions. Turns out he was 19, been job jumping since leaving school. He had no idea what he was talking about. Gov scheme 30k pa Outsourced

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 68.

    Here we go again.
    They're just grabbing all they can before the next lot get in and repeat the process.
    I for one am sick of living in a society where criminality is called government.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 67.

    Chris888
    JUST NOW
    12. ropper
    44 MINUTES AGO
    If members of our current government were working in the real world they would be sacked pronto. Every day there is another fiasco.


    ConDems out.

    Here here, though your comment will never be Ed's choice it will most likely remain top spot as it speaks for the people of this country and not the fat cat businessmen.

    Oh please...

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 66.

    37.fordprefect8888 I wasn't being anti-govt.I was merely stating a fact.It doesn't matter what govt is in power,they never seem to be able to control public spending when it involves private comp's.This applies to the previous Labout govt who paid private health firms 250million when not one operation was carried out.

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 65.

    There's another aspect to this. Journalists/police should investigate the agencies that youngsters are forced to sign up with to FIND an apprenticeship. From what I'm hearing they're falling over themselves to sign people up, but never come up with a vacancy. Do they get a fee for sign-up?? Or are there just no vacancies? Needs looking at.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 64.

    12. ropper
    44 MINUTES AGO
    If members of our current government were working in the real world they would be sacked pronto. Every day there is another fiasco.


    ConDems out.

    Here here, though your comment will never be Ed's choice it will most likely remain top spot as it speaks for the people of this country and not the fat cat businessmen

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 63.

    What do you expect, they have only just started recording the nationality of those claiming benefits!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 62.

    Now this is more like the kind of thing investigative journalists should be doing instead of making judgements about a murder case whose progress through the courts is being impeded by a witness.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 61.

    another day another scandal, betraying our youth is a national disgrace. the reason it is a scandal is because it was done as short term political window dressing and not solid working foundations.

  • rate this
    +12

    Comment number 60.

    Why not recreate Skill Centres and Government Training Centres again and make industry pay for them?

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 59.

    #42 - a good workman would only replace the tap as a last resort :-)

    So further education colleges are cutting corners but wringing their hands of any faults is how I read this article. Is that so Panorama might insinuate that it is all the govt fault and that it is failure etc etc .

    sounds like more BBC biased reporting to me.....

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 58.

    Its just another scam the tories have dreamp't up to enable them to give our hard worked for money to their business mates

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 57.

    My point at 35 was....there seems there is nothing we can do about the many articles we read or to the news we listen to. I find it upsetting, mindboggling, I become insensed and for what? I don't see anything changing do you? and I am alarmed at it becoming worse.

    May be I just need a 'hug'.:-)

  • rate this
    +22

    Comment number 56.

    This government and countless previous have been too concerned with pushing people into jobs & training to get the unemployment figures down. People need careers, not dead-end jobs. Children are being failed at school by not being given proper careers advice, so no engagement and no direction. School leavers are hopelessly unprepared to go into the work place and don't know what they want in life.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 55.

    http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/28434

    Go on! Don't be selfish! Do the right thing!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 54.

    A very high percentage of apprenticeships came from MOD establishments not so very long ago, the vast cutbacks have left the over rated private sector to train the trickle of vacancies now available and the quality of training is woeful, so much for the private sector being the pinacle of everything, just pour money at your private sector friends Mr Cameron they probably need a new BMW or two.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 53.

    Once again people...private companies have been doing this since 2001. This isn't a party political issue.

 

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