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Carillion apprentices among casualties as firm collapses

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Kyle Fitzsimmons

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Carillion apprentice Kyle Fitzsimmons is weeks away from achieving a higher level carpentry qualification

“I’m really worried I might lose access to all my work,” says Kyle Fitzsimmons, who until Tuesday morning was studying for a higher level carpentry apprenticeship with Carillion in Liverpool.

He and the rest of his class were getting on with their work at the training centre when their tutor was suddenly called to a meeting.

When he came back, the tutor told the group they had to leave and that the electricity was about to be turned off.

Someone would be in touch, the tutor told the apprentices.

“It all happened really quickly,” says Kyle.

Some members of the group found they could no longer access their work online.

Kyle says he still can and is trying to print it off in case it disappears.

He has just weeks to go before he qualifies and is desperate to get his certificate as he is hoping to travel to Australia to work as a carpenter there.

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Media captionCarillion apprentices ‘sent home with no explanation’

He joined Carillion straight out of school three years ago and has completed level one and two apprenticeships in carpentry and joinery – but the higher, level three qualification, is the one he really needs to get better paid work.

The trainees work five days a week with local work-experience providers and then do block release courses in college for periods of up to eight weeks to improve their skills.

Kyle says the whole experience has been frustrating, with tutors sometimes not turning up to teach the courses – but he persevered and has now all but achieved his goal.

He says he has already been in touch with a local college and has a meeting to talk about completing his qualification there.

‘Bags packed’

Another apprentice, trainee bricklayer Jay Smith, told the BBC that nobody knew what to believe at his training centre in Birmingham.

“What I’ve been told is the centre has two weeks to come up with the money to pay its debts otherwise it’s going to be sold or closed,” he said.

“If it’s sold, we’re moved to a different training centre or another area – but if it’s closed, we lose the apprenticeships.

“Yesterday we saw people leaving, the man in charge of stock just left, he was the first to go.

“Then, we saw people high up in the office with their bags packed leaving.

“I saw another man going, and more people just with their bags packed going.”

The Construction Industries Training Board estimates that Carillion has about 1,400 apprentices.

CITB says it is working to secure the future of the apprentices and hopes a package of grants and transfer incentives it is putting together will “encourage construction employers to enable these apprentices to join their existing workforce”.

“CITB’s priority is to do all it can to ensure that Carillion apprentices can continue their training so their skills are not lost,” said chief executive Sarah Beale.

The Department for Education said the transfer of the training of Carillion apprentices to the CITB would help protect them.

“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,” an official said.

Carillion apprentices can contact CITB on [email protected] or 0344 994 4010.

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