Apprenticeship course postponed for hundreds

Zenos has written to hundreds of apprenticeship candidates telling them the course they were due to start on Monday is no longer taking place.

Photo: Alamy
By Louisa Peacock, Jobs editor
Last Updated: 7:05PM GMT 06/01/2012

Hundreds of people due to start an apprenticeship on Monday have been told not to bother turning up, it has emerged.

IT training provider Zenos, owned by Pearson, the FTSE 100 education and publishing group, has written to 300 candidates aged 19 or over telling them their scheduled placement for 2012 will not begin as planned on January 9. The company runs thousands of apprenticeship programmes each year.

The Skills Funding Agency, a Department for Business body, is understood to have asked Zenos to review its apprenticeship scheme because those enrolled on the course have no guarantee of employment with another organisation once the programme has finished.

Critics have long argued that apprenticeships of this kind, with no employers involved, lead to “ghost jobs” with candidates being turfed out into the labour market upon finishing their course, raising questions over value-for-money of the state-backed scheme.

Last month the Government promised a crackdown on training programmes that failed to meet quality standards. Skills minister John Hayes warned BIS would withdraw money from providers where there was evidence public money had been “over-claimed”.

Under the previous arrangements, Zenos would have paid all 300 apprenticeship candidates a wage, effectively making them employees of the training provider. But it could not guarantee work for them once they had finished the course.

It is now working to devise a new training programme which it hopes to start in the next few weeks, although it will not officially be called an apprenticeship.

A spokesman said the company did not yet know whether the new programme would pay participants of the course. The new “wage” may just involve expenses, a company statement said.

Jason Moss, managing director of Zenos, said: “Due to recent changes in the Government policy on apprenticeships, we are now working hard to ensure that the Zenos provision is fully aligned to the latest policy and that our learners continue to receive the best programme.

“All of the existing affected candidates will be starting a relevant programme imminently that will support their aspirations to gain an apprenticeship within the original time frame.

“We have consistently adapted our programme over the last 18 months to reflect the Government guidelines and we have a flexible and dynamic operation that can respond to these changes.”

The news has hit many would-be learners hard, with some claiming they had turned down job offers elsewhere thinking they had secured an apprenticeship scheme with Zenos.

The training provider’s own Facebook page has been littered with comments over the past 24 hours.

However, the news appears to have been a shock to the training provider, too, with a statement on its Facebook page saying it only found out about the course changes “24 hours” ago.

The statement said: “Within the past 24 hours, the funding agencies have told us that anyone starting an apprenticeship now needs an employer and a specific job identified, prior to starting on the programme. This is out of our control and we can understand that this may cause you uncertainty, which we can only apologise for.

“We are working very hard on your behalf to ensure that you have a successful career in the IT sector and at present we anticipate that although the start of the training may differ slightly that overall you are on the programme for the same amount of time.”

Zenos also claims 91pc of its learners find a job after completing one of their apprenticeships.

Employers offering apprenticeships to people aged between 19 and 24 can claim about half of the cost of the course from the state. Those hiring 16 to 18 year-old apprentices are eligible for 100pc funding.

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Paul Champion

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