The holiday travel company Thomas Cook, which went into liquidation in September 2019, has been sold to a second company after first being acquired by Hayes Travel, and has indicated its willingness to take on new apprentices, despite the uncertainties in the travel industry caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
FE Week reports that the holiday firm has now been bought by Chinese company Fosun Tourism Group, and is re-established as an online-only service. When Hayes Travel acquired the retail arm of the business, it was able to offer all former Thomas Cook employees a job, which included 31 apprentices who chose to continue their training with Hayes.
A spokesperson for the new brand said they are “absolutely keen to bring in apprentices as the travel industry rebounds. We hope that 2022 will bring a more stable holiday-buying pattern so that we can grow sustainably, bringing in fresh talent to our core areas of digital and customer service.”
The spokesperson also indicated it was likely that a hybrid of in-house and outsourced training delivery would be used. However, they will only be taking on ‘a handful’ of new apprentices.
The news elsewhere for high-street name apprenticeships is a mixed picture. According to the FE Week report, 64 providers made ‘unplanned exits’ from publicly funded provision in 2019/20. The publication made a freedom of information request for the impact assessment for the government’s landmark Skills and Post-16 Education Bill.
The report revealed that leading high-street retailers such as Boots Opticians, Halfords, and Greggs were among those who had stopped delivering their own schemes, but have handed over training to external providers.
Halfords, the motoring and cycle products store, had been delivering its own apprenticeship programme since 2015, but scrapped all level 2 retailer apprenticeships in 2019. The move was blamed on the cuts to funding for the level 2 standard, which was reduced from £5,000 to £4,000 in December 2019.
Over 1,000 apprentices were receiving training from Halfords in 2019. A statement issued at the time read: “In order to design a revised model in-line with the reduced funding bands, we believe this will adversely impact on the quality of programme Halfords can offer, impacting the current curriculum which received praise during our recent inspection.”
Meanwhile Boots Opticians, which is an arm of the high-street pharmacist, scrapped all of its direct apprenticeship training in May 2020. A spokesperson commented that they wanted to ‘be more responsive to business need’, but refused to explain the statement any further.
Greggs, the bakery chain, is among the other national chains to abandon publicly funded training provision, although in a statement they said they were continuing to run apprenticeship programmes and other schemes, both internally and with external providers.
When Virgin Trains lost its franchise to run train services on the west coast to Avanti in December 2019, all the existing employees, including 100 apprentices, were transferred to Avanti. The apprenticeship training is now being delivered by external organisations.
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