DREAMS DASHED AS FIRM FOLDS

3AAA COL­LAPSE UP­SETS AP­PREN­TICES

Derby Telegraph - - FRONT PAGE - By ZENA HAW­LEY zena.haw­ley@reach­plc.com @Ze­naHaw­leyDT

af­ter staff and ap­pren­tices at Derby-based 3aaa were re­as­sured that me­dia spec­u­la­tion about prob­lems at the com­pany was un­founded, a 3pm meet­ing on Thurs­day marked the end for the train­ing provider.

Josh Alvey, who only a month ago was wish­ing the co-founders – Peter Marples and Diane McEvoy-Robin­son – well on their re­tire­ment from the com­pany they founded a decade ago, found him­self with­out a job or ap­pren­tice­ship.

Josh, 19, of Derby, said: “We were called into a meet­ing room at 3pm and there was a mes­sage broad­cast to all parts of the com­pany across the coun­try so that every­one heard about it at the same time.

“As some­one who was do­ing his level four ap­pren­tice­ship with 3aaa, ev­ery­thing had gone in that mo­ment and, like every­one else, I could not be­lieve it.

“There was stunned si­lence be­cause every­one was so shocked. Then the re­al­ity set in and every­one was very up­set about the sit­u­a­tion.

“We had been told that there were no prob­lems and so it was a real shock – and even worse when we were told we had to leave straight­away and would not be re­ceiv­ing any wages for what we had worked in Oc­to­ber.”

The De­part­ment for Ed­u­ca­tion fi­nally pulled the plug on fund­ing ap­pren­tice­ships af­ter a se­ries of in­ves­ti­ga­tions over the past cou­ple of years and the fail­ure by Of­sted to pub­lish a May in­spec­tion re­port be­cause it was un­happy with its find­ings.

New ap­pren­tice­ships had al­ready been sus­pended four weeks ago.

Data pro­ces­sor Josh said he han­dled the cer­tifi­cates for all 4,500 ap­pren­tices at 42 acad­e­mies across the coun­try.

He said: “I was two years and three months into my ap­pren­tice­ship. I had achieved level two and three and was work­ing to­wards level four, which I should have com­pleted next year. Now I am look­ing for some­thing else as soon as pos­si­ble.

“We are be­ing made to suf­fer, even though we have done noth­ing wrong. I have spent the past 24 hours ap­ply­ing for loads of jobs and I am vis­it­ing as many agen­cies as I can.

“We all have debts and bills, so that was a real shock to every­one. We are hop­ing that the ad­min­is­tra­tion process may see us get the money we are due. But, like get­ting an­other ap­pren­tice­ship or job, it’s all a wait­ing game.”

An­other learner, Rhys Hick­man, 26, also of Derby, is luck­ier than some ap­pren­tices be­cause he still has a job with an ac­coun­tancy firm, which was sup­port­ing ap­pren­tice­ships.

Un­til Thurs­day, he also had a level four ap­pren­tice­ship, which he does one day a week at 3aaa in Sitwell Street.

He said: “Our tu­tor was called away un­ex­pect­edly just be­fore 3pm and re­turned about ten min­utes later with the news that we were to go home be­cause 3aaa was ‘no more.’

“Every­one was pretty up­set about it and it came to­tally out of the blue for every­one. Only last week, my em­ployer was told by e-mail that ev­ery­thing was on track de­spite spec­u­la­tion in the me­dia about the com­pany.

“I am lucky be­cause my em­ployer will help me to find an­other proDAYS

We have been made to suf­fer, even though we have done noth­ing wrong. Josh Alvey

vider. It won’t be the same be­cause I had a good re­la­tion­ship with my tu­tor and men­tor, which has now ended very abruptly.”

There was mixed re­ac­tion from for­mer ap­pren­tices and em­ploy­ees. The for­mer seemed shocked to dis­cover that 3aaa had gone into ad­min­is­tra­tion while the lat­ter said it came as no sur­prise af­ter “what he had wit­nessed over two years”.

Isaak Crook, con­tent mar­ket­ing man­ager with Ap­pIn­sti­tute, said he was “shocked” to hear about 3aaa, where he spent two years as an ap­pren­tice and where he “kick­started the ca­reer that I love”.

He said: “While, at times, I felt there was some mis­com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween em­ploy­ers, the academy and my­self un­der their tu­ition, the thing that al­ways stood out to me was how train­ers went out of their way to help me and my peers to get the most out of our ap­pren­tice­ships.

“It’s sad to see it all fall apart like this in a way that seems quite sud­den, from the out­side look­ing in.”

But a for­mer em­ployee, who wished to re­main anony­mous said: “I was at the com­pany for around two years and I see the move by the De­part­ment for Ed­u­ca­tion in re­fer­ring its re­cent in­ves­ti­ga­tion to the po­lice, via Ac­tion Fraud, as a pos­i­tive step. “My thoughts are with hun­dreds of ded­i­cated, tal­ented and pas­sion­ate staff who have been made re­dun­dant and who don’t know how they will pay next month’s mort­gage or rent.

“I am con­fi­dent that the spe­cial­ist team set up by the De­part­ment for Ed­u­ca­tion will help the learn­ers to be signed to new ap­pren­tice­ship providers.”

So­cial me­dia out­lets were flooded with com­ments from staff and ap­pren­tices, and also from other train­ing providers anx­ious to of­fer al­ter­na­tive train­ing to peo­ple.

Sa­man­tha Han­cock said: “Triffic. I think my pro­fes­sional exam was sup- posed to be with them in Jan­uary.” Re­becca Beavis said: “My daugh­ter was one of the em­ploy­ees made re­dun­dant to­day!!”

Some­one else said sim­ply: “I’m job­less.”

The De­part­ment for Ed­u­ca­tion has not re­vealed how its spe­cial­ist team will as­sist young peo­ple in find­ing al­ter­na­tive ap­pren­tice­ships.

And Derby Col­lege, a key provider of ap­pren­tice­ships in Derby, has not com­mented on the sit­u­a­tion.

Spec­u­la­tion has also been raised by many peo­ple over the fu­ture of the 3aaa spon­sor­ship deal with Der­byshire County Cricket Club, whose ground is named af­ter the com­pany. The Derby Tele­graph has asked the club to com­ment.

The De­part­ment for Ed­u­ca­tion has said that it has put its find­ings from an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into 3aaa into the hands of the po­lice through Ac­tion Fraud.

This has now been passed on to the po­lice.

A spokesman said: “Der­byshire Con­stab­u­lary has re­ceived a re­fer­ral from Ac­tion Fraud in re­la­tion to 3aaa and en­quiries are on­go­ing.”

3aaa founders Di McEvoyRobin­son and Peter Marples and the firm’s premises in Derby.

Rhys Hick­man

Josh Alvey

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