Provider hits back at ‘unfounded claim’

The boss of an Essex-based training provider has said a local college was refusing to pay its apprenticeship bill amid an “unfounded claim” his firm had gone bust.

John Baker, managing director of DB Training, issued a statement on his firm’s website that said no funding had been received from Harlow College for “the past two months”.
It is understood the alleged unpaid amount stands at around £311k.

Mr Baker’s online statement adds: “There have been quite a number of rumours floating around about DB Training, including that the business has folded as well as not being open for apprentices.

“While we are experiencing extremely challenging times, all centres are open and able to accommodate the apprentices that wish to continue to receive training and support for their apprenticeship.

“We believe the claims made by Harlow College have no foundation and we are rigorously contesting the claims.”A spokesperson at the college, which had business, property and IT apprenticeships with DB Training, confirmed there had been a dispute, but declined to say if it owed the firm any money.

 There have been quite a number of rumours floating around about DB Training, including that the business has folded as well as not being open for apprentices.

“Harlow College is extremely aware of its responsibilities in relation to government funding and the importance of transparency and accountability in dealing with those funds,” she said.

“Certain issues have arisen regarding an external training provider that has caused us a degree of concern.

“We are working with all interested parties to establish clarity.”

She added: “Harlow College is fully committed to ensuring the education of students attending the college via this outside agency continues uninterrupted.”

DB Training, which has three main training centres in Rayleigh, Chelmsford and Colchester, plus a satellite centre in Clacton, first swapped contracts with the college in 2008/09. It now also deals with Colchester Institute as a prime contractor and last academic year had a combined income from college and institute contracts of around £3m.

But, said Mr Baker’s online statement: “The income received from Harlow College amounts to more than 90 per cent of our income so this has prevented us from meeting our financial obligations.

“This in turn has had a detrimental financial impact on a number of other companies.”

The statement continues with information for apprentices and learners on training centre opening hours and tutor availability. Nevertheless, the college spokesperson said: “The education and welfare of our students is paramount in everything we do at Harlow College.

“We are fully committed to ensuring the learning process continues unabated for students who attend our college via this third party training provider.

“The future of our students is of the utmost importance to us and we are determined to continue to offer them the skills and training that will equip them to carry on with their chosen vocation.”

She added: “We will ensure all relevant government and education bodies are kept aware of all developments.”

Mr Baker declined to add to his online statement when contacted by FE Week.