A training provider that helped deliver one of the UK’s biggest apprenticeship programmes at Morrisons is shedding a third of its 600-strong workforce, it has been claimed.

Two in every three of Elmfield Training staff were warned on October 4 they could be facing redundancy, according to a worker who wanted to remain anonymous.

Documents that appear to be from the company, leaked to FE Week, list jobs in business support, finance and communications, among others, as “at risk”.

Elmfield Training described the information as “inaccurate”, but failed to say whether any job losses were planned.

However, the documents supplied to FE Week highlighted how 157 of the planned job losses would be from positions on Elmfield’s bumper contract with Morrisons.

It follows a May consultation on redundancies that was reported in FE Week. However, the number of job losses on that occasion was not disclosed. And the anonymous member of Elmfield staff said there was new anger at the firm’s alleged job loss consultation branding it “unfair” on staff. They also said there were fears the cuts could affect learners.

“We’re not being treated with any consideration,” they added. “We’ve been told the consultation is going to last 30 days, but would like it to last 90 days. We think that would be fair to us and fair to our clients.

“It would be nice to have been given 90 days bearing in mind that we’ve put around 100,000 learners through for them. And learners will suffer.”
They said staff would be told whether they had one of the 196 “at risk” posts that would remain on November 4, and those that had not got a position would be given 30 days’ notice.

“Morale is the lowest I’ve ever known it,” they added. “We have gone through this before, but last time everyone was kept in the loop. We feel like we’ve all been left in the lurch. We all need the money, to pay off mortgages and stuff like that.”

A spokesperson for Elmfield, which was allocated £41m by the Skills Funding Agency for the current academic year, described the redundancy figures supplied to FE Week as “inaccurate, selective and misleading”.

“In our considered view, it is singularly unconstructive to focus on second-hand chit chat when the real investigation should be into the challenges confronting training providers and employers who want to help young people make the transition from education into work,” she said. “That’s what is most critical for the employment and skills system at the moment.”

We’ve been told the consultation is going to last 30 days, but would like it to last 90 days. We think that would be fair to us and fair to our clients.”

A spokesperson for Morrisons, which has been delivered around 100,000 apprenticeships by Elmfield since October 2009, said it had “confidence” in the scheme. “Our apprenticeship programmes have been mapped to the national apprenticeship framework,” he said.

“These standards are determined by the Sector Skills Council which in our case is SkillSmart Retail.” He added that Morrisons’ contract with Elmfield was up for review in 2013, when it was “likely to go out to tender”.

The latest alleged shake-up at Elmfield comes around eight months after its boss, Ged Syddall, was grilled by MPs on a business, innovation and skills select committee. He told the committee he had received 95 per cent of a £3 million dividend for their 2009/10 financial year.

“I set this business up from nothing and now we have 750 people,” Mr Syddall told MPs.

“The other thing we have done over the last three years, is 40 per cent of post-tax profits have gone into social impact programmes, which helped thousands of young people back into employment. From every £1 I’ve taken out in the last three or four years, I’ve put £2 back to helping other people who have not been as lucky as me.”