Fears for nearly 3,000 learners as large provider folding

Fears for nearly 3,000 learners as large provider folding

A Northamptonshire-based training provider with a near £2 million government skills contract is closing down, leaving nearly 3,000 learners facing an uncertain future, FE Week has learned.

TQ Workforce Development Ltd, which dropped from a ‘good’ to ‘requires improvement’ Ofsted rating in July, started telling around 30 staff members they were losing their jobs last week.

The provider, which works with five subcontractors that share £700,000 in contracts, had around 3,000 learners studying intermediate and advanced apprenticeships or adult learning programmes at the time of its most recent inspection from the watchdog.

For the past two years the provider, whose ESFA allocation was just over £1.8 million for 2017/18, has been given a notice of serious breach by the government for not meeting the minimum standard regarding its apprenticeship delivery.

Its overall apprenticeship achievement rate sits at just 52 per cent – 10 percentage points lower than the ESFA’s minimum threshold – according to the latest government statistics.

The exact reasons for the sudden closure however remain unknown.

The provider has not been graded ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted – which triggers intervention from the ESFA and the cancelling of its contracts – and on December 14, TQ Workforce put a news story on its website which announced its “delight” at receiving over £500,000 in the recent non-levy tender.

FE Week has spoken to TQ Workforce’s managing director, Jane Quarmby, but she was unable to shed any clear light on the situation.

“We’re ceasing trading and right at the beginning of the process, but I haven’t got much else to say at the moment,” she said.

When asked if she could say why her business is having to close, Ms Quarmby said “not at the moment no” but confirmed the decision was not based on the outcome of the recent controversial non-levy tender.

She also couldn’t comment on what would happen to the learners at TQ Workforce, as it is “too early days”.

One former staff member of the provider has already changed his LinkedIN profile to say he is currently seeking employment and new opportunities due to “sudden redundancy”.

Its website is still active, but staff email addresses are now being shut down.