DREAMS DASHED AS FIRM FOLDS
3AAA COLLAPSE UPSETS APPRENTICES
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.