Apprenticeships, Ofsted

Training giant with 5,000 learners pulls out of apprenticeship market

GP Strategies Training Ltd confirms closure of UK apprenticeship arm leaves 95 workers at risk of redundancy

GP Strategies Training Ltd confirms closure of UK apprenticeship arm leaves 95 workers at risk of redundancy

A large training provider with nearly 5,000 learners on its books will cease its UK apprenticeship provision after a damning Ofsted inspection found that “demotivated and disengaged” apprentices were walking away from their courses.

The firm has claimed that the education watchdog’s scathing report has accelerated a decision to withdraw from the market after acknowledging that the quality of its apprenticeship training was not up to scratch.

Nearly 100 members of staff are now facing redundancy while thousands of learners will need to be accommodated elsewhere as a result.

Ofsted published an ‘inadequate’ report just before Christmas for GP Strategies Training Ltd, following a visit by inspectors in August.

Parent company Learning Technologies Group (LTG), which bought the business around a year ago, issued a London Stock Exchange update two days before Ofsted’s report was published saying that it intended to close its UK apprenticeship business in early 2023.

An LTG spokesperson said the decision over the operation, which was anticipated to generate around £9 million in revenue in 2022 from its Education and Skills Funding Agency-funded apprenticeships, was because “the nature of the customer relationships and quality of the offering in the business do not match the high standards elsewhere in GP Strategies and the group, especially following a negative Ofsted report in late 2022”.

It leaves around 4,700 apprentices on programmes who need to be transferred, while GP Strategies also confirmed that 95 jobs are at risk of redundancy.

GP Strategies Training Ltd has been delivering training since 1997 with centres in Stockport, Blackpool, Halifax, London and Bodmin. In 2017 it was selected by the Crown Commercial Service to provide apprenticeship training for the civil service.

At the time of its inspection, it had around 2,700 apprentices in adult care, 1,300 on childcare and education apprenticeships, 700 business and management apprentices and 166 adults on short online courses in healthcare and business.

Inspectors said that almost half of the apprentices had not completed their course within the planned timeframe, with some having missed opportunities for promotion or further employment as a result. Others had been unable to complete mandatory regulations they need for work.

The report said that “leaders maintain that the impact of Covid-19 was to blame for delays” but “leaders’ ineffective plans to enable apprentices to catch up have impeded these apprentices’ career opportunities”.

Inspectors reported that apprentices became “demotivated and disengaged” due to the high turnover of skills coaches, adding that “leaders do not know how many apprentices remain in learning”, and “too many apprentices contacted during the inspection stated that they have left the apprenticeship, are no longer in the sector or are on apprenticeships at other training providers”.

Elsewhere, those on adult learning programmes “lose interest early in the course” because of limited online materials and find the online learning platform “too difficult to navigate”.

Ofsted said that, while the programmes met the needs of national and local employers, leaders had “failed to provide a high-quality curriculum” that met the needs of all apprentices and adult learners.

Furthermore, inspectors said that “in many cases, apprenticeships do not attend taught sessions or have frequent enough contact with their skills coaches” and found that “leaders do not plan the functional skills English and mathematics curriculum effectively”.

In April 2021, the firm was criticised by Ofsted for serious safeguarding failures after concerns were raised by whistleblowers.

That was focused on its early years apprenticeships and found that leaders did not know if apprentices who worked with young children had completed their DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) checks or in how many places they were employed.

A follow-up monitoring report in July that year said the firm was making reasonable progress to address safeguarding requirements and in its latest inspection Ofsted said that safeguarding arrangements were now effective.

The provider had not had a full inspection for more than a decade, with the last in July 2012, but received a ‘good’ rating during a 2016 short inspection and had been subject to the two monitoring visits in 2021.

More Supplements

Older workers nervous about lifelong learning financing

New polling reveals varying attitudes among adults towards taking out loans for courses

FE Week Reporter
FE Week Reporter

Strikes: Minimum service levels will ‘inflame’ tensions

Unions slam 'bad faith' proposals as college leaders raise concerns about union relationships

Shane Chowen
Shane Chowen

Students force college to ‘suspend’ ties with Israel-linked aerospace firm

Luton Sixth Form Colleges has cut ties with Leonardo, which provides STEM careers events and work placements

Anviksha Patel
Anviksha Patel

Your thoughts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

16 Comments

  1. Anonymous ex employee

    I’m surprised it took so long. GP Strategies was a terrible employer who expected coaches to “support” learners to pass their qualifications “by hook or crook”
    Learners and staff were failed by them time and time again. The senior management routinely used profanities in meetings with staff and did so on many occasions calling them useless and lazy and threatening them with their jobs on a regular basis.
    Learners were constantly let down and I’m not surprised they lost interest and became disengaged. Lack of regular contact, lack of online support and lack of regular reviews of learning and welfare. PREVENT training was none existent and safeguarding in adequate

  2. I read the Ofsted report provided in the link in the article. This sounds like a concerning trend with some of these organisations, where the aim is to sign up as many learners as possible, then “leave them to it” and provide the bare minimum, often less, support once students are enrolled.

  3. Ex GP Employee

    Interestingly, there’s no mention of the Scottish office based in Stirling within the article, but I assume it also affects the staff there? GP Strategies acquired YouTrain a few years before the pandemic (Stirling and Halifax offices) and completely changed the ethos from an excellent workplace to somewhere you dreaded working. Especially when senior management would visit; a particular male with an overinflated ego. He had a very unpleasant manner towards staff, as if they’re his minions and should never say no to him. I’ve watched the business become a shadow of its former self whilst I was there and after I was made redundant. However, many others left of their own accord due to the poor management, motivation by intimidation and downright rudeness towards staff. Assessors/coaches were treated as if they were salespeople; the extreme targets (commission earning) for learners to pass ‘milestones’, which enabled the company to claim the related funding, were unrealistic. The pool of assessors consisted of a main group that had been with the company for several years, and others who were transient. The training centre itself was excellent, although not perfect with multiple vendor certification courses available and a busy digital exam centre too. However, the expectation of staff to work additional hours for minimal pay further bolstered the lack of staff motivation. Some very talented and highly qualified staff were only earning £18k at the time for extremely stressful and demanding roles which was daylight robbery. Although, interestingly the vast majority of the staff had been through one of many apprenticeships during their time with the organisation, which almost seems to be cheating the funding system… The pandemic may have exacerbated the failures within the organisation, but the ego of some and lack of capable management was causing huge issues long before Covid-19 was known to the public.

    I do feel sorry for the young people on the apprenticeship schemes too as this article highlights the impact it’s had on their ability to progress their careers. I hope other providers take over their apprenticeships and gives them the opportunity to complete them.

  4. There are too many “training companies” using shortcuts to get learners through. For those without the relevant maths and English qualifications, Functional Skills at Level 2 can be quite difficult and requires a lot of hard work and dedication, which neither the learners or coaches appear to have.
    The whole business model of training treats tutors and trainers as dispensable and the main focus is on sales (acquisition of learners) , top heavy management and too little emphasis on delivery, with predictable results. I do not believe some of the high success rates of many providers and would hazard a guess that a lot of Functional Skills passes are “suspect”.

  5. Ex sales employee

    I was employed by GP Strategies Apprenticeships between early 2018 and late 2019 and can’t say that I am surprised to see this announcement.

    The senior management that I had dealings with were, in my opinion, as malignant as they were incompetent: they were so fixated on profits, that all else suffered.

    When I was there, the understaffed delivery team was left to drown under massive caseloads, while the sales team were forced to sign up as many learners as quickly as they could. Those chickens have certainly come home to roost.

    I really do feel for the regional teams and the learners who have been let down by a senior leadership team, who quite frankly, should be totally ashamed of themselves.

  6. Ex employee

    As an ex-employee, I am amazed this took as long as it did. Horrific work ethics, as an assessor I was encouraged to get learners through no matter what it took to do. This caused me and my colleagues stress and eventually found a new role with a new employer. High turn over of assessors because of the fraudulent tasks they were made to do, learners passing exams they did not take etc. It left me with PTSD, and years later I still struggle to trust new employers. I feel this has taken too long but there are good training providers out there.

  7. Ex-employee

    Quite frankly I am not surprised in the least. There was no leadership, coaches left to fend for themselves with no support. If you didn’t hit targets you were basically “bad at your job”, even though it was down to no fault of your own. The CEO had zero people skills, he was very quick to call everyone crap at their job and belittling anyone and everyone with no reasoning, he was very unsupportive and loved the sound of his own voice. Coaches had to basically cut corners to get learners through and “do what they could” to get the job done. Completely unrealistic targets meant coaches working 60- 80 hour weeks for no extra pay.

    I wish all the learners well, and I am confident that by moving to other providers they will receive the support, guidance and teaching they need to pass their apprenticeship.

  8. Anonymous ex employee

    Someone’s been blowing smoke up the VPs backside. I guess this has happened because managers only worked 80hours a week didn’t have there ears close enough to the ground.

    I hope the loyal staff are able to find alternative employment and that the apprentices get sorted out.

  9. this is no surprise. assessors have a huge case load with unrealistic targets. Senior management offer no support other than speaking to them like dirt, and using bulling tactics. the threat of losing your job was banded around on every teams meeting if you failed to hit your target . the assessors had to do anything to get the learners through to end point assessment even if it meant they had to complete some of the learners work them selves.
    i wonder how many of these learners are working without the correct training or not aware they have completed the course! total disgrace.

  10. Gosh, I genuinely hope all commenters have the most perfect job and work for the most impeccable employer. Seems the world has forgotten about being kind. I hope your comments do not hinder any of the good people who work for this company, in their endeavors to find new employment in the economic climate we are all in. I hope you bask in your perfection.

    • Pretty sure no one has actually said anything bad about the people who worked there, if anything the opposite has been said. Any negativity has been targeted rightfully so at the senior management team but I suppose we should just be kind and ignore the bullying, harassment and torment they’ve put staff through over their tenure.

      You probably should read the comments and article before putting on your good Samaritan cape

      • P Kettle

        If anyone felt they were bullied or harassed then there is a company policy in place to deal with it. Why did those ‘anonymous ex-employee’s’ not report to the relevant independent parties!! Surely they too had a duty of care to the learners too or is it not their job to do so!!

        • Ex GPSTL Sales Staff

          I for one did report: not to the HR team, (who seemed to side with the SLT and company in all cases) but to the ESFA and Ofsted.

          When the VP, in front of other members of the SLT, feels emboldened enough to insult, threaten and ridicule staff members during team meetings, do you really think the company policies and procedures are worth the paper they’re written on?

    • Ex GP Employee

      Vicki, you clearly have never worked for them with such a comment denying the reality. You did not experience the way they tormented, intimidated and bullied their staff. Senior Management were the main issue here, not the individual staff members that were treated as their minions. If they cannot treat their staff with ‘kindness’ that is not the fault of any ex-employees’ (bar senior management). No job is perfect, it’s a fact. However, as you have clearly read already, there is far more behind the scenes than you can appreciate. The truth of the Go employment experience is not a personal attack, it is simply the truth and something that adults have to be realistic about.

      I’d argue that anybody who has worked for them, had clearly shown their strength of character to work for such an awful employer. These individuals will not have a problem being frank with any future employers about GP and that they’re grateful to work for a reputable company.