Hundreds of apprentices in training with bankrupt construction firm Carillion still face uncertainty over wages, despite government assurances over their studies.
Trainees who spoke to HuffPost UK painted a confusing picture of the situation, brought about when Carillion collapsed this week under a crippling debt pile and pension deficit.
More than 1,400 apprentices were left in limbo by the liquidation of the firm on Monday.
Apprentice carpenter Liam Carroll, 19, from Chatham, Kent, told HuffPost that while he had been reassured his qualification was safe, he had yet to hear anything about his weekly pay.
“We aren’t 100 percent,” he said. “The whole money side is confusing. We know that they are talking about it, but we haven’t heard anything.”
Carillion was one of Britain’s biggest apprenticeship providers, with its training arm benefiting from a £6.5m government grant last year.
Many apprentices worked on sites across the UK for other firms, which might now stump up the cash to keep trainees working.
..we didn’t know anything, it’s put a lot of stress on us Carillion apprentice Charley McDowell
And trainee joiner, Charley McDowell, 18, from Strood, Kent, told HuffPost: “We have been told that our current work provider is keen to take us on.
“I do think we should have been told something, we didn’t know anything, it’s put a lot of stress on us, we’ve been demotivated.
“Things are better now we have the qualification is secure.
“To be honest with you, I’m not that bothered about the £130 a week. After the qualification, I’ll be looking at £1,000 a week.
“There’s a bigger picture.”
With McDowell due to qualify in May or June he faces months without pay if the small firm he works for doesn’t step in to provide his wage.
On its website, the government said that apprentices “earn a wage and get holiday pay” alongside studying for a qualification.
Letters sent to apprentices from the Education and Skills Authority, seen by HuffPost, reveal the government is working with the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) to continue training.
The letter said:
I am writing on half of the Education and Skills Funding Agency, which funds your apprenticeship/training programme.
You have seen or heard that Carillion PLC has ceased trading and are no longer providing your training provision.
We have identified the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) will be your alternative provider and the local CITB representative will be contacting you in the near future.
We will be working closely with CITB and other government bodies to support you to complete your learning.
But there has yet to be a concrete commitment on wages, with minimum pay stated as £3.50 per hour for all apprentices in their first year.
Pay secure ‘for now’
The Department for Education said that the CITB is helping to secure training as well as working with apprentices to secure employment.
A spokesperson said that apprentice pay will be secure “for now”, but declined to offer further assurance, referring HuffPost to the Cabinet Office.
The Cabinet Office declined to comment and referred HuffPost to the Insolvency Service.
The Insolvency Service in turn referred HuffPost back to the Department for Education, adding that the CITB is helping apprentices secure new work.
The CITB advised any affected apprentices to contact its advice line on 0344 994 4010.