The award-winning Daily Mirror Investigations team, Andrew Penman and Nick Sommerlad, this week launched an in-depth probe into the activities of Luis Michael Training which has run into trouble as a subcontractor providing sports apprentice courses.
Big colleges including South Thames and Sparsholt in Hampshire pulled out of contracts and stopped payments, claiming the outfit had “failed to deliver to our expectations” and reporting other “irregularities”.
The colleges insist Coalition Government emphasis on subcontracting was a key factor influencing their decision to sign contracts. The collapse, just one year into the new government raises the spectre of earlier “franchising” scandals that blighted private training provision in the 1990s and led to the spectacular collapse of Bilston College with £9m debts.
Luis Michael Training claims to be “one of the UK’s largest training providers to the active leisure sector, earning a reputation as a leader in our field.” But this did not impress angry parents interviewed at the start of the Mirror probe.
One furious mother of a trainee said: “The apprentices shovelled snow and cleaned boots and have been completely let down.” The angry father of another trainee said his son was “completely exploited”. More than 1,000 Sparsholt apprentices were left without training and the charity arm of Barnet FC, North London, is owed £7,500 as courses for 20 apprentices were scrapped.
Sparsholt College told the Mirror it was trying to help the students but wouldn’t comment further because it is “embroiled in a legal dispute with Luis Michael Training”.
The Skills Funding Agency says it is working to help colleges but has no contractual arrangement with Luis Michael Training.