A company continuing to illegally advertise apprenticeships, despite promising to stop last year, is facing fresh government action.
Train 2 Travel Ltd was set up by Michelle Van Sprang in 2020 and soon began advertising through social media, a website and a magazine that it can deliver apprenticeships which are 95 per cent funded by the government.
But the firm has never gained a place on the government’s register of apprenticeship training providers and is therefore not allowed to deliver apprenticeships in any capacity.
Under the Apprenticeship, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009, only statutory apprenticeships can be described as apprenticeships. If a provider does not receive funding for apprenticeships, it cannot advertise apprenticeships on its website or elsewhere.
The Department for Education told FE Week it was first alerted to Train 2 Travel’s illegal advertising of apprenticeships in October 2021 at which point it contacted the firm.
Following this contact, the company “agreed to stop advertising apprenticeships with immediate effect”, a DfE spokesperson said.
But evidence has emerged showing that Train 2 Travel has continued to advertise apprenticeships throughout 2022.
Numerous Facebook posts have been posted this year that celebrate “apprentices of the week” and include comments such as “we pride ourselves on delivering our apprenticeships in line with the ever evolving industry”.
One post on May 15 said one apprentice “began our junior content producer apprenticeship during the pandemic”. Another Train 2 Travel Facebook post from February 22 advertises a level 3 travel consultant “apprenticeship”, and tells prospective apprentices and employers to get in touch by calling the mobile number of Van Sprang.
The Facebook page has been taken down in the past few days.
Train 2 Travel also had a live website, which stated its mission was “excelling in the delivery of on-the-job training through apprenticeships”. The website, which listed eight apprenticeships it could supposedly deliver, also said the firm’s values included: “Integrity: we are honest and open with strong moral principles.”
The website was taken down afterwards FE Week contacted Van Sprang. The owner denied that Train 2 Travel has ever delivered apprenticeships but refused to explain why her company was advertising that it does.
The DfE said it will now write to Train 2 Travel about its repeat offense of advertising apprenticeships. The exact content of the letter is unclear, but the agency said FE Week that in these instances it will typically tell the firm to remove any adverts of apprenticeships. Further enforcement action may result in a referral to trading standards, an authority that investigates unfair trading and illegal business activity.
Train 2 Travel is expected to act on the DfE’s request within 10 working days.
The company appears to have links with another training provider, called AS Training (International) Ltd, which is on the government’s register of apprenticeship training providers. But the nature of this relationship is unclear.
Numerous apprenticeship adverts posted by Train 2 Travel include an email address for AS Training (International) Ltd and a link to the provider’s website.
FE Week contacted AS Training (International) Ltd’s owner Stephen Foster who declined to comment on the relationship his company has with Train 2 Travel.
AS Training (International) Ltd is suspended from recruiting new apprentices following an early monitoring report from Ofsted which was published last month and found the company making ‘insufficient progress’ across the board.
Van Sprang declined to comment on her company’s relationship with AS Training (International) Ltd.