HGV driver hopefuls left in the dark as DfE ends bootcamp contract

Learners waited a year for training due to dispute over financially 'unviable' flagship scheme

Learners waited a year for training due to dispute over financially 'unviable' flagship scheme

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Much-needed HGV drivers have been left in limbo after a provider’s contract to deliver their training using the government’s flagship skills bootcamp model was suddenly terminated.

Qube Learning has been in discussions with the Department for Education for six months after unforeseen increases in delivery costs made the training for the 16-week course “unviable”.

The DfE this week ended the contract a year after it was awarded. Qube’s owner Claire Capperauld told FE Week that she was “surprised” by the decision and claimed her company had recently been “specifically instructed to contact learners with regards to finishing their training”.

The DfE was tight-lipped about the reason for termination but promised that officials are “working to protect all learners impacted by this situation”.

Both parties have refused to disclose the value of Qube’s contract, or how many learners have been impacted.

Several aspiring drivers caught up in the dispute told FE Week that Qube had previously said that “thousands” were signed up to the course.

Many of the “gutted” and “frustrated” learners enrolled 12 months ago but never received any training. They have slammed Qube for a lack of communication and said they have been “left in the dark” while they miss out on other training and employment opportunities.

During the Covid-19 pandemic the Road Haulage Association (RHA) estimated a shortfall of 100,000 lorry drivers, caused by lockdowns, a boom in online shopping and a post-Brexit exodus of EU drivers. It prompted haulage firms to offer generous wages of up to £60,000 and four-figure sign-on bonuses.

By September 2021, the DfE had established HGV skills bootcamps to quickly train truckers and get them on the road. The programme, backed with tens of millions of pounds, is supposed to be a 12-to-16-week course with a guaranteed job interview at the end.

Qube Learning, recently rated as ‘requires improvement’ by Ofsted, was one of 24 providers approved by DfE to deliver the “new to HGV driving” bootcamp. It was one of only a handful that was approved to offer bootcamps in multiple locations in every region of England.

Tom O’Sullivan signed up to Qube’s HGV bootcamp last year after leaving a senior role in the NHS due to burn out. He viewed HGV driving as a good career for job security where he could also help an industry struggling with skill shortages.

He was accepted onto the course in February 2022 and month later took part in four webinars. He was then told to go for a medical so that he could apply for a provisional licence and sit theory tests, which he passed in July.

There was radio silence from Qube until December when he received an email to say the provider was preparing to start his training in the new year. He was shocked to receive a message this week telling him there was no way forward.

“It’s super frustrating”, O’Sullivan told FE Week. “I’ve made decisions to not pursue other opportunities because I was doing this. I could have been a year into paid employment by now.”

Liam Millington is another HGV bootcamp learner with Qube who has gone through a similar experience.

“It’s gutting, I’ve been looking forward to obtaining my licence for the past year. I haven’t told my family or friends yet as they were just as excited for me.”

Capperauld said Qube’s delivery model was different to many other HGV bootcamp providers because it outsources the practical training and testing elements to external suppliers.

She told FE Week: “Unforeseen increases in delivery costs since the contracts were issued in March 2022 including increased fuel, energy and staff costs meant that our model was no longer viable.

“We have been in discussions with the DfE since October 2022 regarding these challenges and were surprised that the contract was terminated after they had specifically instructed us to contact learners with regards to finishing their training.”

Qube isn’t the first training provider to raise the alarm about the higher-than-expected cost of delivery for HGV bootcamps. Systems Group Ltd went bust in November blaming inadequate funding levels. Around 2,000 learners, mostly on bootcamps, were impacted.

Capperauld said Qube has “made it clear to the DfE that we will support with learner transition as required”.

The DfE said it is “providing the opportunity for learners to enrol with another training provider so that they can complete their training”.

But an email to affected learners, seen by FE Week, asks that “you do not contact the department and wait for further guidance and instruction – we will email you by Friday 14th April with more information”.

The email added: “If you are contacted by any company regarding delivery of skills bootcamps in HGV driving, practical tests, licensing or similar, please do not take any action. The DfE is not able to reimburse any costs where a learner has elected to self-fund their training.”

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20 Comments

  1. Matthew Watts

    I was on a bootcamp with Qube, I passed my theory tests in April 2022 and contacted them monthly after to find out when my practical training would be. They kept stringing me along with ‘hopefully soon’ and ‘high demands’ and only told me they had paused the training in February 2023 when I confronted them after contacting several driving schools that all had availability.

    • Ian carnall

      I had all that with hopefully soon etc. Eventually in December I think it was maybe late November I got an email to say i was booked in for I week of training followed by my test. Great I was finally getting there. Only to get another email saying it was postponed due to unforseen circumstances. It turned out after some enquiries to be discussions over funding. Then last month I got an email we are back on track and my course will be completed shortly. Then I got the one with terminated. To say I was really peed off would be an understatement. I made some enquiries with a training school it would cost me over £3000 to get just the final part done and my test. Money I don’t have. The same as many others I have turned down other work as I couldn’t commit the time due to training. Now I am having to wait for the due to contact me regarding finishing the course. Meantime I’m signed on with an agency driving 7.5 ton trucks. But even with that it is difficult to make ends meet as its not very good money and its hit and miss how many days work you get every week.

      • Bobbi Kaur

        I also was with Qube. Passed my theory tests in April 2022 but never heard much from Qube after that. I got a couple of emails from them but it was always me chasing them to find out what the delay was.
        I should of been up and running by now in my new career but I’m not.

    • Miffed

      Same situation, enrolled in Feb 22, started in March 22, fobbed off with excuses every month since.

      Finally got them to put me forward for theory/hazzard perception in Oct/Nov which I passed.

      Then hit a brick wall of silence till being told all practical training is on hold.

      I believe the DFE made the right decision, it’s been obvious from the start Qube couldn’t manage the project.

      They promised training would last 16 weeks, so I should of taken my practical in July, like many others we were constantly fobbed off.

  2. Bootcamp Insider

    These type of companies are one of the main reasons why bootcamp didn’t work.

    Intermediaries such as Qube, third party brokerages like HGVT and driving agencies including Pertemps which all jumped on this campaign merely to suck the government funding dry.

    NONE OF THESE COMPANIES HAD ANY HGV TRAINING VEHICLES, INSTRUCTORS OR TRAINING SITES!! They would then charge the government / DfE £4,000 – £5,000 per candidate to do a fast-track car to artic course then find small and actual HGV training schools around the UK to do the driver training for a cheap as possible and less hours they could (usually 12-15 hours max which is not enough time in a 44 to. Killing machine to become a safe driver!!) whilst they would take over £2,000 profit for just booking a candidate medical and theory test… something anyone can do themselves for £80.

    As always it was a shambles and something that wasn’t thought through properly, just rushed through by the government and a wasted cost of millions of pounds to the tax payer once again.

    If this was done properly and by actually training providers then it would’ve worked but the leaching funding vulture middlemen are to blame yet if the government / DfE had used reputable training companies it would have been a success and cost half the amount of money to do.

    The DfE should’ve arranged the medical and theory tests then sent the candidates to local training schools.

    The only reason this has been scrapped is because a number of training schools got in contact with DfE and threatened to make this shambolic bootcamp scheme publicly known of how they has messed up.

    DfE have been approached by a number of actual training schools

    • I got disqualified from bootcamp because I startet the process before, had medical done. Privately funded my C class and went to uppgrade bootcamp license with manpower. It took 7 months of wait where I already had valid theory test etc.
      Even with cash delivery experience I struggled to find a job as employers want held 1 year CE licence due to huge insurance premium. There is no more shortage in drivers and the only work I found is extremely physical…
      Most people are better off staying put, stress and extremely long hours are not for most.

  3. I got disqualified from bootcamp because I startet the process before, had medical done. Privately funded my C class and went to uppgrade bootcamp license with manpower. It took 7 months of wait where I already had valid theory test etc.
    Even with cash delivery experience I struggled to find a job as employers want held 1 year CE licence due to huge insurance premium. There is no more shortage in drivers and the only work I found is extremely physical…
    Most people are better off staying put, stress and extremely long hours are not for most.

  4. Ken Dunn

    Don’t be too disappointed I went through the bootcamp with manpower and hgvt passed medical passed theory and practical the problem I have is all the employers want drivers with experience allegedly for insurance purposes and the ones that say thay will take on newly passed driver’s don’t get back to you how are you ment to get experience if thay won’t give you a go and manpower say thay have same problem employers only want experienced driver’s you would think employers would be snapping your arm off with allegedly 100000 driver shortage it’s nice to no I can tow a very large caravan lol

  5. Anthony Wares

    Started a workplace ‘bootcamp’ in July 2021, given online training materials and theory book in for September 2021.

    Due to working 6 days a week this was unattainable, something I raised with HGVC and DfE via email. No replies.

    Took the theory tests on the day planned and failed all as expected.
    Was then advised if I wished to retake theory tests I would need to rebook myself and pay for these myself as I only got one chance.
    I advised of my previous email contact to say I was not ready and to rebook the tests when I recontacted them via email.

    4 months later in Feb 2022, I had a further email to say that ‘at my current progress it will take longer then the allocated 6 months to finish the training. I can either complete it by may 2022 or I will be removed from the course’.

    Thankfully my workplace gave me time off to knuckle down and passed my second theory tests. Workplace then booked me with a local training provider and passed my class 2 first time. Without my employer stepping in, I would still be driving vans all day.

    The bootcamps are not fit for purpose.
    Without my employers assistance I’d be screwed.

    Also, HGVC and the DfE provided no real assistance or advice in any way, shape or form. As much use as a fart in a spacesuit!!

  6. Jarrod Schoolar

    Yet another failed government scheme. Like placing a sticking plaster over a bleeding artery.
    And if the planned ‘grandfather rights’ plan is rolled out, I intend to hand in my licence and vow never to drive till the day I die.

    It’s stupidly dangerous.

  7. I would recommend no body complete their HGV training. The industry is the worst I have ever worked and it is getting worse week after week.

    I have been driving for 10 years and I have seen the roads just get more congested, people treat you like rubbish, the facilities disappear and wages go down.

    If you like working 70- 80 hours a week and being away from home 5 nights a week, without the access to toilet and wash facilities then this is the job for you!!

    My advise, don’t bother with the training!!

  8. I was enrolled in February and started my 4 webinars in March. I enjoyed them as I was in customer service before enrolling onto the bootcamp. This allowed me to understand the industry. I got my medical shortly after and been let down with driver training since. I did contact a driver school and they had a 4 month waiting list, so i understand why qube have struggled with getting me training. I just wish they would contact me and keep me updated rather than radio silence.
    I liked my teacher, he was knowledgeable and was able to provide me with loads of information and guidance which was amazing.
    I’m sure it is not just this company in this situation and there a thousands more like myself who are waiting for their hgv training. I just wish I had the money to do it myself now though, I need a job!

  9. Tony Algood

    They are the worse company I have ever encountered and no wonder they are not trading anymore but to read how they told their employees is disgusting. I gave up with my HGV training as I was getting no response from them.

  10. Steven Fowler

    Hi all,

    I am signed up to HGV training in April 2022 and the training company I was with went bust by November 2022 as well and I have just been transferred to another company that I hope lasts whilst I finish my practical training.

    Practiced for the theory tests for 3-4 months last year, thankfully passed them and then eventually got to my practical training of which I nearly finished and was awaiting my actual test only to be informed later via another article on this very website! that the training company had filed for bankruptcy and didn’t tell most of it’s own staff members as well.

    I share your frustrations about how the training camps have been handled by both private and government departments.

    I am yard tug shunter trained and cannot really go any where else without the HGV bit now so I am only doing this so I can have the ability to go to another job or a job agency should I get into troubled times and not because I want a driving career at all.

    If you guys can stick with your training and get the HGV licence then you will have a bit more bargaining/shot calling advantages and can make those that need drivers listen to your terms or walk away when they try to pull a fast one on you in exchange for your skills.

  11. Mugged

    Like everyone else here I signed up with Qube. The reviews were bad, but Ofsted was good at the time so I swallowed my misgivings and signed up. It was while I was signed up that the were re-inspected to spectacularly bad effect. Yes, I’d had a few problems I needed to sort out as I went but once I had the tests under my belt, it was time for the cab. I was in a timed contract at the time and didn’t want to leave my employers in the lurch. No problem they said. Finally they really seemed to be dragging their feet with trainingin the New Year but nothing materialised. Finally contacted the DFE as timing was getting silly. That’s when it all imploded. But nothing was happening anyway.