‘Broken’ Skills Training UK employees won’t be paid in full this month

AELP launches ‘save the skills system’ campaign following latest training provider closure

AELP launches ‘save the skills system’ campaign following latest training provider closure

24 Jul 2023, 17:36

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Employees at Skills Training UK have described feeling “broken” as bosses confirm they will only be paid for seven days this month.

This comes on the day the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) has demanded that ministers take urgent action to prevent “total collapse” of the training system in the wake of multiple providers exiting the publicly funded training sector.

Skills Training UK is not yet officially in liquidation, but staff were told on Friday not to come back to work.

In an update today, seen by FE Week, staff were told that managers were unsuccessful in obtaining an overdraft to cover July’s payroll in full. Only a partial payment was granted meaning staff will only be paid for seven days this month. This reduced payment will still be subject to deduction like tax and pension contributions.

While they wait for the appointment of a liquidator, employees can’t make a claim for unpaid wages, notice pay or redundancy pay. Meanwhile, staff are also worried learners could miss out on getting their qualifications this August as they’re not at work to liaise with awarding organisations.

Stunned staff, some in tears, told FE Week they had been “left drowning” and out of the loop at a time when living costs are spiralling and after they have worked at the provider for years.

“We’re just broken, some of us have children and mortgages, it’s completely crazy. Management went completely quiet on us.”

More than 200 staff members will be made redundant if the provider does go under. In an update issued on its website, Skills Training UK said it expects to appoint liquidators on August 2, and that all delivery to all learners has stopped. 

There are also concerns that learners will not receive the qualifications they were studying for, as staff have been locked out of their computers and systems and are not able to communicate with the learners or awarding organisations such as Pearson. As emails were shut down, staff could not tell learners that the provider is about to shut its doors.

“They’ve abandoned them,” one staff member said. “Some of the learners that I started working with a year ago have behavioural issues, and now they are going to get nothing after a year’s work. And there’s no one to be held accountable.”

Skills Training UK declined to comment.

AELP has meanwhile warned the sector “risks total collapse” thanks to a “perfect storm” of rising costs, reduced adult education budget (AEB) contracts, the end to the traineeship programme last year and real-terms cuts to apprenticeship funding bands. 

It has called for an across-the-board uplift of 10 per cent in funding for all apprenticeship standards and a minimum government spend of £5,000 per year across all apprenticeships to keep apprenticeship providers afloat, alongside an increase to the maximum contribution above the current £27,000.

Nichola Hay, chair of AELP, warned any collapse of the skills system would “have a huge impact on learners and employers, as providers withdraw from the market and their choice is drastically reduced”. 

“At a time where skills are vital in our country’s plan for growth and stability, we need a quick government response to save the skills sector, including an immediate 10 per cent across the board rise in funding for all apprenticeship standards, alongside a long-term plan to stabilise the skills system,” she added. A national skills strategy would help to stabilise the sector by “identifying and properly funding the country’s skills needs.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Education said it was “committed” to supporting high-quality delivery of apprenticeships across all levels and sectors of the economy.

“Over the last year we have reviewed the funding of more than 50 standards, with 75 per cent receiving an increase of around 20 per cent,” they added. They also highlighted a plan to introduce immediate funding increases to ten apprenticeship standards, which they announced last month.

Earlier this month, Skills Training UK was one of several big-name training providers that missed out on a national adult education budget (AEB) contract in the Education and Skills Funding Agency’s most recent procurement. The provider does though hold a devolved contract in London worth £525,000, and other devolved contracts in South Yorkshire.

It also scooped spots on three lots of the DfE’s bootcamps contracts which were tendered out last September.

FE Week updated this article with a statement released on Skills Training UK’s website regarding the expected appointment of liquidators, which was issued on July 25.

Skills Training UK then appointed Matthew Roe and Richard Hawes as joint liquidators from Teneo Financial Advisory on August 3.

The liquidators said they are are “assisting former employees of Skills Training UK Limited to claim any entitlements available from the redundancy payment service”.

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  1. Tony Williams

    This is all caused by the devolution model. It doesn’t work . WMCA have £33 million unspent from the last two years accounts yet they have single providers for the two main contracts . There is no provision in Birmingham from Aug onwards. None of the current providers are getting a contract deemed not to be good enough anymore.
    The whole network of authorities needs to be investigated as their priority is not the ITPs or the local residents.

    • Tony Allen

      AELP, as well meaning as I am sure they are, have been completely ineffective for several years. I know that they are not taken seriously in government.
      They need to step up their lobbying, and start pointing out publicly that there would not be an apprenticeship programme if it weren’t for ITPs.
      Most MPs I have spoken to in recent years think colleges deliver the majority of apprenticeships. AELP need to change tack, lobby every MP with data, and frankly get a bit tougher.

    • Bruce Levy

      I worked for Skills Training years ago and even then, it seemed like a mediocre, poorly-run provider with top-heavy management riding the gravy train. I knew something wasn’t right and resigned a few weeks after for a better opportunity. I’m certain I wasn’t the only one who could see this coming and take some satisfaction that my observations proved me correct.

  2. I think FE Week could save some time and not bother seeking comments from Treasury or DfE.

    Just write this at the end of every article.

    ‘An official spokesperson said something generic and rather meaningless in an attempt to deflect any criticism, but that they were very committed and working at pace to address whatever it was they were being criticised for’.

    • Colette Whelan

      …and to be fair when I left for a higher position just under 12months ago, the ship had already sunk. Those who were trying to convince me back then that it wasn’t, are you convinced now?

  3. David Russell

    I thought I read that Skills Training UK shareholders took just under £4million in dividends out of the company last year? And now it’s going bust? If true, staff and students may well call what’s happening a tragedy, but others will call it an ‘exit strategy’…

      • Shane Chowen

        We reported in our other story ‘Skills Training UK on brink of insolvency’ that “Skills Training UK also elected not to pay out a dividend “given the poor performance of the company”. It paid out a £3.9 million dividend the year before.”

  4. Francesca

    My Son studied here for this past year, everything in this article is correct in regards to students not being made aware of the situation and to then find we could not get his results. Only found this out by good old google when my Son didn’t receive his results. I spent some time chasing this up and managed to find his grades for only two subjects, the other subjects taken had no results. When I queried this I was told work had not been submitted so could not be graded. Absolutely heartbreaking if I’m being honest, a year wasted for my Son who was really trying to get somewhere.