More than half of 3aaa’s former apprentices are still without a new provider

More than half of the apprentices that trained with former apprenticeship giant Aspire Achieve Advance have still not been found a new provider, four months after its collapse.

The company, better known as 3aaa, went into administration on October 11 after the government pulled its skills funding contracts following a fraud investigation, which is now being looked into by the police.

A total of 4,216 apprentices were subsequently left without a place to complete their training so the Education and Skills Funding Agency immediately began trying to find them alternative provision.

Skills minister Anne Milton has now revealed that only 1,892 apprentices, or 45 per cent, of those affected have moved on to new providers so far.

Responding to a parliamentary question submitted by shadow skills minister Gordon Marsden, Ms Milton said the ESFA holds responsibility for moving on only those apprentices with non-levy employers, of which there were 1,832.

Of these, the ESFA has “approved 1,358 apprentice transfers to 125 high quality alternative providers”.

Alternative provision for 410 of the remaining apprentices with non-levy employers has been found, according to Ms Milton, but the agency is still in the process of “contacting the providers involved to facilitate the transfers”.

But 64 of the non-levy apprentices have “notified” the ESFA that they have “successfully completed or withdrawn from their apprenticeship”.

A total of 2,384 former 3aaa apprentices were with levy paying employers. Ms Milton said the National Apprenticeship Service account managers “are supporting those employers to identify new providers”.

But to date, only 534 apprentices with levy paying employers have transferred to new providers of their choice.

The apprentice transfer figures come after the ESFA warned it could withdraw funding from providers after FE Week revealed a few of them attempted to poach staff and apprentices 3aaa by using underhand tactics.

An investigation by this newspaper found that some training providers were “misrepresenting their position” in an effort to recruit those affected.

Tactics included alleged false claims that the ESFA and 3aaa have asked the providers to take on hundreds of people affected.

FE Week revealed what was behind the government and police investigations into 3aaa in November.

The company, which had 500 staff before it went bust when the ESFA pulled its £16.5 million skills contract, allegedly manipulated Individualised Learner Records to artificially inflate achievement rates by a huge amount and misused employer-incentive grants.

A previouse ESFA investigation into 3aaa, carried out by auditing firm KPMG in 2016, had found dozens of success rate “overclaims”.

3aaa was co-founded by Peter Marples and Di McEvoy-Robinson in 2008, but the pair stepped down in September during the midst of the ESFA’s second investigation.

In December the police told FE Week that it hadn’t been able to decide whether or not to open a criminal investigation into 3aaa as it needed to wait for the DfE to “complete its work”.

At the time of going to press the police said there was no update to this.