Talks to plug “potential gap” as training giant set to shut

The UK’s largest provider of skills training and employment is entering a “final close down period” after a damning Ofsted report and an Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) decision to halt funding.

Dr Michele Lawty-Jones Tourism event

Learndirect manages and delivers Lancashire’s Skills Support for the Workforce contracts, together with a consortium of providers in the county, and almost 1,800 employers have directly benefitted from the programme.

Lancashire Business View understands that funding will be halted from the end of July across Learndirect’s adult education budget and European Social Fund contracts and suppliers have been told it is entering a “final close down period”.

As a result, Lancashire Enterprise Partnership (LEP) is currently in talks with the ESFA over a “potential gap” in provision for companies and organisations looking to upskill their workers.

According to reports, Learndirect’s staff have been informed that they are likely to lose their jobs as it prepares to “run down all areas”. It is believed the organisation employs around 1,500 people.

Learndirect was privatised in 2011. It has been the largest provider of adult training and apprenticeships in the UK.

Its difficulties began after a grade four Ofsted report, rating it “inadequate”. The report was published last August after the organisation tried to block its release and challenged it in court. It said it did not accurately reflect its performance. The subsequent fall-out saw the withdrawal of the funding.

Dr Michele Lawty-Jones, director of the Lancashire Skills and Employment Hub, told Lancashire Business View: “Lancashire’s Skills Support for the Workforce contracts, which are managed by learndirect ltd and delivered by learndirect, together with a consortium of providers in Lancashire, have been hugely successful with nearly 1,800 employers having directly benefitted from the programme.

“However, the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA), who procure the European Social Funds (ESF) for the contract on behalf of the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership (LEP), have now confirmed that the contract will cease at the end of July 2018.

“The other two contracts procured via the ESFA in Lancashire, 'Access to Employment' and 'Moving On', will be extended until the end of March 2019.

“As a result, there could be a potential gap in provision for companies and organisations seeking to upskill their employees, and the LEP is currently in discussion with the ESFA regarding options and procurement of future activity to support local employers.

“Any employers who believe they could be affected by these changes should contact the Hub via LancSkillsHub@lancashirelep.co.uk and we will advise them of the different options available.

“We are also currently contacting partners and business intermediaries with details of these changes.”