Company owner accuses Highbury College of risking his firm after finding out his apprentice didn't have qualification

A SMALL business owner has accused Highbury College of a ‘cover-up’ after he discovered an apprentice he employed didn’t have the qualification needed to carry out the work.

Tuesday, 19th November 2019, 11:47 am
Updated Friday, 22nd November 2019, 4:12 pm

Simon Pitham, who runs Sep Tiling in Chichester, revealed he was ‘shocked’ when he found out that his trainee had not received his NVQ for flooring and wall tiling at the college despite completing the course.

It left the business owner with no choice but to pull the apprentice off jobs – putting Mr Pitham’s business in jeopardy as he was forced to turn down work because he could not carry out tasks by himself.

Mr Pitham’s misery was further compounded after the college held back on paying him £500 of the £1,000 he was entitled to as part of a government incentive scheme for small businesses.

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He said: ‘I was chasing the college for the £500 I am owed as part of the scheme when I was shocked to find out they had not signed off the NVQ qualification for my apprentice.

‘I had to pull him off jobs straightaway as I couldn’t risk my reputation. Nobody told me he didn’t have the qualification. It’s only because I started looking into the money I was owed that I found out.

‘I’ve now lost work as a result because my apprentice can’t do certain jobs on his own and I need someone to help me with tasks. It has put a strain on my business.’

Mr Pitham said he lodged a complaint with the college but was ignored even after the 15-day deadline for a response had passed. ‘They have failed to respond to me and missed the deadline despite my repeated attempts to find out what was happening,’ he said.

‘The whole thing seems strange – it’s like they are covering something up. My apprentice has also said others on the course have had the same problem with their qualifications not yet signed-off.’

Following The News’ intervention, Highbury College has now paid Mr Pitham the remaining £500 and told him they will have an update on the qualification as soon as possible.

In response Highbury College claimed it had been ‘in regular communication with Mr Pitman’ but said: ‘We regret and apologise for the delays experienced.’

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A spokeswoman for the college apprenticeship scheme then added: ‘Unfortunately, recruiting a wall floor tiling internal verifier to sign off the apprenticeship proved time consuming.

‘We recently appointed an internal verifier who has subsequently verified the portfolio of work and is awaiting confirmation from the awarding body before signing off and claiming the apprenticeship.’