As many as 2,000 young apprentices could be “left in the lurch” by Carillion’s collapse, Angela Rayner has told HuffPost UK.
The Shadow Education Secretary said it was “imperative” the Government intervene and find placements for scores of apprentices now cut adrift by the failed outsourcing and construction giant.
Carillion - which employs around 20,000 people - went into liquidation after issuing a major profits warning last year.
It has public sector or public/private partnership contracts worth a staggering £1.7bn and was the UK’s largest trainer of construction apprentices.
The firm had a £6.5m public contract to train 2,000 apprentices, but the youngsters’ future is now unclear.
Angela Rayner MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Education, said: “Thousands of Carillion apprentices could be left in the lurch and millions of pounds of public money at risk, yet the Tories have said nothing about what, if anything, they will do to protect workplace learners and protect the taxpayer.
“At a time when there is agreement on the need for skilled construction workers, it is imperative that the Government steps in, ensuring that these apprentices are able to complete their training and get the skills that both they and the wider economy need.
“Only months after the collapse of LearnDirect highlighted the risks of over-reliance on private providers, it is time for ministers to take action and show that they have learned the lessons of their previous failures.”
It is thought contractors who take on Carillion apprentices could be offered cash from the public purse via the CITB (Construction Industry Training Board).
The CITB said it was building an “in-principle package” that would see firms handed “apprenticeship transfer incentives”, but no decision has yet been made.
Meanwhile, there are fears of a “domino effect” on small firms who relied on Carillion for business.
Cabinet Office minister David Lidington told the House of Commons on Monday the Government would find placements for apprentices.
He said: “The CITB is going to be extremely active – and will be pressed by ministers to be very active – in ensuring it reaches out to employers and finds spaces for those young men and women as rapidly as possible.”
A Department for Education spokesman added: “We have taken steps to protect learners by transferring the training of Carillion apprentices to the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB), and we are grateful to CITB for helping us ensure learners can continue to gain the skills they need.
“We will continue to work closely with the CITB to support apprentices to remain in existing placements or to find new employment with other local organisations so they can complete their training.”