People 1st, once a major sector skills council and a key player in the apprenticeship reforms, has entered administration, FE Week can reveal.

This is a stunning blow for the retail, hospitality and travel industries in the apprenticeship system.

The employment and learning consultancy charity confirmed this morning that it has been placed into the hands of administrator FRP Advisory.

FE Week further confirmed the news with a heartbroken senior member of staff, who asked to remain anonymous.

“I have been made redundant and have had to go to the Job Centre today,” they said.

People 1st was once the employer-led sector skills council for hospitality, passenger transport, travel and tourism in the UK, responsible for developing and managing apprenticeship standards.

Amongst its other duties the organisation acted as the external quality-assurance body for the following popular standards:

The body developed the content and assessment plans for many of these standards, and its logo appears prominently on the assessment plans (see an example below).

But government funding for every SSC ended six years ago, which meant they all had to find ways of surviving alone. This factor is believed to have been the biggest single cause of its downfall.

Comments made to FE Week in February 2017 indicated high hopes that plans to manage external quality-assurance for apprenticeship end-point assessment in the retail, hospitality and travel industries would help the body survive financially.

“The retail, hospitality and travel industries have elected to use an employer process for external quality-assurance of apprenticeship end-point assessment,” a spokesperson said at the time.

“The cost of external-quality assurance is currently being finalised, but we have advised organisations that are on, or aspiring to be on, the register of apprenticeship assessment organisations, that we do not envisage the price exceeding £40 per apprentice at end-point assessment.”

When employer Trailblazer groups submit their assessment plans for new apprenticeship standards, they must choose one external quality assurance organisation out of four options: an employer-led approach, a professional body, Ofqual (the Quality Assurance Agency performs this role for higher education qualifications), or the Institute for Apprenticeships.

It had also been operating a provider network – a “stamp of approval” a “People 1st gold standard apprenticeship provider status”.

In its most recent accounts up to March 2017, it recorded revenue of £4.3 million, with a deficit for the year (pre-depreciation) of £465,000 and reserves of £1.46 million.

It had emplaced a three-year strategic plan to earn back the losses, which started in April last year.

The accounts also show the charity was acting on behalf of 18 trailblazer employer groups to develop standards, and was employing 56 people at the time.

People 1st was also the issuing authority for the following frameworks:

No statement had been prepared from People 1st at the time FE Week published.

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  1. May I first offer my condolences to all the staff of People 1st and wish them well. This announcement raises a major question mark over the viability of the DfE’s policy on EQA. Many of us have argued it was not going to work and clearly now we have the unfortunate stark evidence of failure.