Beware of ‘cowboy’ apprentice providers

Tony Cohen said firms should put candidates through a rigorous interview process just as with recruiting full-time staff. And firms should beware of “cowboy” apprenticeship providers, he added.

Mr Cohen said: “I got cold-called one day asking if the firm had vacancies for apprentices. When we got involved with them they tried to force the wrong qualifications course that did not suit the firm or the candidate.

“When we tried to take control they wanted to take the apprentice back or else charge us an agency fee.”

He said firms should instead look to local colleges with apprenticeship coordinators and ensure the course and candidate is right, but the process demanded time and effort.

The Forum of Private Business has urged the government to simplify and boost credibility of apprenticeship schemes.

It said apprenticeships needed to be more business-friendly and appealing to industry leaders in a statement made to the Business, Innovation and Skills Select Committee’s inquiry.

Jane Bennett, head of campaigns at the FPB, said: “Our members value on-the-job training, and our latest research backs this up. The problem is that the majority of courses are not flexible, which is essential for small firms.

“There is also a lack of information available to small businesses about course benefits and therefore they find it difficult to navigate a complex system made up of numerous courses.”

She added that clear information on the effectiveness of courses was especially important.

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