BIS Select Committee to hear evidence from the CEO of Elmfield Training Ltd

Elmfield Training Ltd has been called upon by the Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) Select Committee to give evidence for their inquiry into apprenticeships.

The training provider is one of six organisations, including Morrisons, Microsoft, Carillion, Babcock and Robinson Brothers, which has been contacted by the committee to give evidence.

Gerard Syddall, company director and 95 per cent shareholder of Elmfield Training, will be representing his company during the session.

Mr Syddall told FE Week: “When we heard about the BIS inquiry we expressed a real desire through the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) to talk to the committee.

“I am delighted that we have been given a chance to contribute to the very important debate about the future direction of apprenticeships.”

Elmfield Training has been in the public spotlight since FE Week reported in July 2011 their involvement in 12-week apprenticeships through Synapse, and that they had accumulated £12.3 million in pre-tax profits for the financial year ending in September 2010, on a turnover of £33.8 million

The Skills Funding Agency (SFA) first contracted with Elmfield Training in 2010/11 academic year for almost £24 million. This was doubled to nearly £43 million after the first six months, and for the 2011/12 academic year they have been allocated more than £37 million.

Elmfield Training claim to be “fastest growing vocational training provider in the UK,” not least owing to their role as a training provider for Morrisons.

A Freedom of Information request by FE Week to the SFA revealed that in 2009/10 Elmfield Training had 4,980 apprenticeship starts with Morrisons, which jumped to 20,380 in the first nine months of 2010/11.

Of these 17,870 were over the age of 25, and the average duration was 28 weeks with 75 per cent studying at Level 2.

Ofsted first inspected Elmfield Training as an SFA prime contractor at the end of July 2011, and graded them as ‘satisfactory’.

Mr Syddall also setup his own awarding body, Skillsfirst Awards, in May 2009 to certificate the Qualification and Credit Framework (QCF) qualifications and apprenticeship frameworks delivered by Elmfield Training.

In November, Myra Wall, managing director of Skillsfirst Awards, said: “Thanks to our unique positioning, structure and in-depth sector understanding, we are able to work with training providers and employers to deliver relevant, fit-for-purpose work-based qualifications.

“Although setting up as an awarding body was very demanding due to the rigour of the recognition process in place, we are extremely proud of the growth we have achieved to date and our customer base and qualifications portfolio is rapidly building.”

Elmfield Training’s history with Morrisons does not stop at the delivery of apprenticeships. It also includes a donation of £200,000 to support a community interest company setup by Morrisons’ HR director.

They gave the financial contribution to Create, a social enterprise which supports homeless and disadvantaged people back into work, to help them continue operating.

A spokesperson at Elmfield Training said: “Elmfield would like to confirm our donation to Create was £200,000. As a responsible business with a management team focused on giving back to the communities in which we operate, we are incredibly proud to be working with leading social enterprise Create to help get some of the most chronically socially excluded people in the country into jobs.

“Both the SFA and the National Apprenticeship Service are aware of our long-standing partnership and of the social impact it has delivered.”

Gary Stott, deputy chair at Create, added: “Elmfield is one of the many businesses that have supported us. As we expanded, Elmfield helped fund additional coaches and mentors for our Create trainees.

“We are wholly transparent on this and know it is a contribution that Elmfield is very proud of having made, and I can confirm that this is a sum of £200,000, which is a matter of public record.”

Norman Pickavance, according to documents at Companies House, is a company director and former 33 per cent shareholder at Create, as well as the current HR director at Morrisons.

The latest abbreviated accounts from Create, available at Companies House, which detail up to September 30, 2010, show its fixed assets reduced from £49,499 in 2009 to £28,762 in 2010, despite the £200,000 donation.

Mr Stott added: “Philanthropic support is vital, especially from the business community, without it we would not have been able to help the people we have helped.

“Elmfield, as a business working to get people to employment, is obviously sympathetic to and supportive of our cause.”

Create runs a number of food businesses, including a restaurant and production kitchen in Leeds, in order to give volunteers a “sense of purpose and direction,” according to Mr Stott.

In addition to its financial contribution, Elmfield Training has seconded three staff to work alongside the staff at Create and offer both coaching and mentoring support to volunteers.

The volunteers at Create work for three days a week with around 60 staff, including chefs formally at Harvey Nichols and La Gavroche, followed by one to two days working with Elmfield Training employees on confidence building, CV writing, basic skills, numeracy and literacy.

The social enterprise also works with a number of firms, including Morrisons, to support people who have been homeless, marginalised or vulnerable, back into a job.

The Create website states: “Morrisons have worked with us at Create to craft a training programme that supports people into employment.

“The aim is to get 1,000 people through our Academy and working in store at Morrisons.

“Starting in Leeds, the first graduates have already joined the shop-floor workforce at the supermarket’s new store in Harehills, one of the most deprived areas of the city.”