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Carillion crisis: Apprentices left in limbo after firm's collapse

By Pete Madeley | Birmingham | Business | Published:

"We have basically got until the end of the month and after that we won't get paid."

18-year-old James Vernon is in his second year of an apprenticeship at Carillion’s training college in Erdington

The words of James Vernon, a carpentry apprentice who has seen his future career thrown into doubt following the collapse of Carillion.

The 18-year-old is in his second year of an apprenticeship at the firm's training college in Erdington.

Like many of his peers, James was left in a state of shock when he was told on Monday that the company had gone into liquidation.

"Nobody really saw it coming, and straight away your fist thought is what will happen with my job and how will I get paid." said James, from Solihull.

"Everything happened quite quickly and we are all trying to sort out our futures at the moment."

James attended an advice centre set up by the CITB on Wednesday, where he was told that his weekly wages of £130 would end on January 31.

"After that we have got to fend for ourselves," he said.

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James, who joined Carillion after he left school, works for a small firm which specialises in domestic work and home extensions.

He says he is hopeful that his employer will be able to take him on and cover his wages, but says many of his fellow apprentices have not been so lucky.

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"A lot of them were sent home off site on Monday at 8.30am," he said. "They have basically been told there is no work for them.

"The college is shutting down at the end of the month, so we are waiting to see what happens with our NVQ packages.

"I love what I do and want to continue with it until I am fully qualified."

Get back on track

The Construction Industries Training Board (CITB) says that Carillion has around 1,400 apprentices, with 200 based in the West Midlands.

As well as the Birmingham site it has a base in Merry Hill, Dudley, which specialises in bricklaying and carpentry.

The CITB says it is working to secure the future of the apprentices and hopes a package of grants and transfer incentives it is putting together will 'encourage construction employers to enable these apprentices to join their existing workforce'.

It has called on all former Carillion apprentices to get in touch so it can help them continue their training – and for employers to step forward to take them on.

“We understand it’s a very worrying time for the young people who were on the Carillion apprenticeship programme, but we can help them restart their training and get their careers back on track if they get in touch with us," said chief executive Sarah Beale.

"Our industry needs the skills these young people are developing and we want to help them find new employers and get their qualifications.

“Our industry, which has consistently reported skill shortages and difficulties in attracting apprentices, now needs to step up and support these young people who have so much to offer.

"There is certainly no shortage of work in construction, with housebuilding and infrastructure particularly strong, so these young people can have great careers despite this setback.

“At CITB we are committed to doing everything we can to help the former Carillion apprentices, and hope to see many of them restarting their careers very soon.”

Assessment

The Department for Education said the transfer of the training of Carillion apprentices to the CITB would help protect them.

"We will continue to work closely with the CITB to support apprentices to remain in existing placements or to find new employment with other local organisations so they can complete their training," an official said.

Meanwhile, the chair of the education select committee, Robert Halfon, has written to Education Secretary Damian Hinds asking for an 'assessment' of how many apprentices may be affected through the longer Carillion supply chain.

“The committee understands that the ESFA is working closely with the CITB and hope that this will result in no learner losing out through no fault of their own,” he wrote.

And shadow skills minister Gordon Marsden has written to Anne Milton, asking the skills and apprenticeships minister what she is doing to 'assess the potential hit that the skills sector could suffer as a result and what contingencies are you putting in place for this?'

The CITB hotline for Carillion apprentices and construction industry employers interested in helping them is on 0344 994 4010.

CITB’s dedicated support team can be contacted via carillion.apprenticeshipsupport@citb.co.uk

Pete Madeley

By Pete Madeley
@P_Madeley_Star

Political Editor for the Express & Star. Responsible for local and national political stories, opinion, comment and analysis.

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