POLITICS
03/04/2018 13:05 BST | Updated 03/04/2018 15:38 BST

Just 2 Of 1,200 Carillion Apprentices Offered Placements By Government

'I know the training board is working hard to clear up the mess caused by Carillion but it is time ministers started doing the same.'

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Just two of the 1,200 apprentices cut adrift by the collapse of Carillion were offered a placement by government - and both joined the army. 

Ministers have repeatedly faced calls to do more for apprentices whose future was thrown into jeopardy when the outsourcing giant collapsed in January. 

Roughly a third - 419 - is still without work. Most found a new placement with a business, while only two were offered a training contract with a government department or agency. 

After sustained pressure the government has, however, agreed to pay the remaining apprentices beyond the end of March. 

Labour MP Stephanie Peacock, who has been pressing ministers on the issue, said: “The Government had a duty to look after the apprentices who have been badly failed by corporate bosses and Tory ministers alike. Yet they haven’t even found so much as one apprenticeship in a single government department or agency.

“I know the training board is working hard to clear up the mess caused by Carillion but it is time ministers started doing the same.”   

So far, 1,800 Carillion workers have lost their job as a result of the firm’s sharp demise. 

A cross-committee inquiry by MPs is probing how Carillion, which was signed off by accountants KPMG as a going concern in spring 2017, came to crash into liquidation less than a year later with a reported £5bn of liabilities and £29m left in cash. 

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Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner has praised the government for continuing to pay Carillion's apprentices - but said ministers should be intervening more 

It employed 20,000 people and derived £1.7bn – a third of its revenue – from contracts across education, the NHS, prisons, defence and rail. It was also the preferred provider for HS2.

Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner said ministers should look to intervene on apprentices’ behalf. 

She said: “Thanks to Labour and trade union pressure, Carillion apprentices will be paid beyond the end of March. They had done nothing but work and study hard for qualifications, and should never have had the threat of losing their pay hanging over them.

“But the figures show the failings of the Government’s flagship apprenticeships programme. More than a third of these apprentices cannot find a placement and not a single Government department has stepped in to help. 

“The Government’s handling of Carillion has been shambolic, putting thousands of people’s jobs and livelihoods at risk. The very least the Education Secretary could now do is ask his fellow Ministers to provide opportunities for the apprentices.”

Rehana Azam, national secretary of the GMB trade union, which represented Carillion workers, added: “It’s taken too long, but guaranteeing apprentices their wages is the least the government can do given it created this mess in the first place.

“There’s always a political choice to be made - investment in the public sector and industry to create training opportunities and skills, or continuing to rely on the benevolence of big business. By relying on outsourcing and business investment alone, with no coherent plan for Brexit, the government is playing roulette with people’s livelihoods and futures.”

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Skills Minister Anne Milton in the House of Commons

In an answer to Peacock on behalf of the Government, Skills Minister Anne Milton defended the Government’s handling of the Carillion collapse fallout and said those apprentices without a placement would continue to be paid. 

The Construction Industry Training Board (CITB), the apprentices’ training provider since Carillion went bust, has been unable to contact around 200 trainees, meaning their fate is not known. 

Milton said “The CITB have confirmed that to date, they have successfully placed four individuals in government departments and other public sector employers. Two of the affected apprentices have joined the Army with a further two apprentices now working for their local council.

“CITB has engaged directly with over 1,200 learners and secured new employment, with wages, for hundreds of apprentices. CITB are proactively working with their established network of college partners to support all affected apprentices and other learners to complete their programmes and have emailed 40,000 external contacts, the vast majority of those are employers, encouraging them to take on Carillion apprentices.” 

Separately, Milton added a new scheme had been launched to find work in different regions for apprentices.

She said: “CITB has recently launched a targeted employer campaign to secure employment placements for learners for whom a placement has not yet been found during the process, due to their geographical location / area of learning. This has resulted in an increasing number of employer vacancies, which CITB are actively pursuing in order to place more apprentices.”