Phones 4u apprentices find new employers

The Skills Funding Agency (SFA) and subcontractor EQL Solutions have revealed plans to support apprentices left unemployed after Phones 4u went into administration.

The Staffordshire-based mobile phone retailer was placed into the hands of administrators PwC on September 15 after network operator EE joined Vodafone in cutting ties with the retailer.

The firm employed around apprentices and hope emerged that some might be saved weeks later ago when PwC confirmed EE had agreed to buy 58 stores, preserving 359 jobs. Vodafone was also buying 140 stores, preserving 887 jobs. That left 362 stores closing, with 1,697 staff redundancies.

Vodafone and EE declined to comment on whether their deals involved retaining apprentices, but the SFA said a “significant number” were transferring to “other employers”.

The SFA and EQL Solutions, a subcontractor which trained the Phones 4u apprentices, announced plans to support any left unemployed on Thursday (October 9).

A spokesperson for EQL Solutions said: “Following the closure of Phones 4u last month, EQL Solutions have been in discussions with the SFA to determine the best way to support the unemployed apprentices affected.

“EQL Solutions will provide a four to six week redundancy programme tailored to support each individual’s job hunt needs.

“Apprentices with less than six months to go on their programme have also been offered the opportunity to complete their apprenticeship with EQL Solutions.

“This week, we’ve written to all effected apprentices to provide more details of options and offered further signposting to other helpful organisations they might need right now. We’ve been keeping in touch with them over the telephone and via all the usual social media channels.”

Phones 4u, which was rated as good by Ofsted in 2009, was allocated an adult skills budget of £850,274 and £287,843 for 16 to 18 apprenticeships from the SFA this academic year.

The cash funded training, through EQL Solutions, of staff that worked across 550 stores. A spokesperson for the SFA said: “Following the closure of Phones 4u last month, the SFA has been in discussions with Phones 4u and EQL Solutions to offer support to those apprentices who wish to continue and complete their apprenticeship.

“There were around 900 apprentices at Phones 4U. A significant number are transferring to other employers and apprentices with less than six months to go on their programme have been offered the opportunity to complete their apprenticeship with EQL Solutions.”