'It was a really big shock': Carillion's apprentices on building a future after the construction giant's demise

  • By Davina Fenton: ITV News

When Carillion collapsed with huge debts, around 1,400 apprentices employed by the construction and infrastructure giant were suddenly left in limbo.

The firm's programme offered trainees, mainly 16 to 18-year-olds, the opportunity to train up in a number of trades, including carpentry and joinery.

Charles Williams had been an apprentice with the company for 1.5 years, and was working towards his level 2 qualification.

He told ITV News he had had no problems with Carillion though they were "notorious for paying people late".

Charles said news of the firm's collapse last Monday did not "sink in at the time" and it was not until the next day that reality hit.

"You just think, I've just wasted the last year and a half of my life, which could be for nothing."

"It was a really big shock," he added.

"I feel like we should have had prior warning... we had no notice."

But even amid the uncertainty, Charles remains optimistic.

"I certainly know a lot more now then I did when I first started, so that's a positive," he said.

The teenager hopes to continue working for the site work provider he has been with for the past eight months.

But he fears some apprentices who may not have done particularly well at school could struggle.

"I'd describe Carillion partly as a Hail Mary corporation," he said.

"It was a good company and they'd teach you very well. But for those people that don't have very good qualifications, now that the company has gone bust, what are they supposed to put on their CV?"

"That might deter employers from actually taking them on," he added.

Ashley has experienced problems with getting his weekly expenses paid. Credit: PA

Seventeen-year-old Ashley had been training as a joinery apprentice for almost two years.

Prior to the Carillion going into liquidation he had recently experienced problems getting his £129 weekly expenses paid.

"For the past month they didn't pay me. I don't really know why, " he said.

"At first I thought it was because they were going into bankruptcy and didn't have enough money to pay me, so I rang up my mate and asked if he was getting paid and he said yes."

"I had to borrow money off my dad and see if I could get lifts with my manager," he added.

Sawing ahead: The apprentices are receiving support to help find new employers.

The government has said it is "committed" to funding every apprentice that has already started their apprenticeship programme through to its completion.

Through the Education and Skills Funding Agency, it has transferred the training of Carillion's apprentices to the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB).

"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," the government said.

CITB has pledged to help support all of the Carillion's apprentices and help them continue their training.

They are also urging work providers and employers to step forward to take them on.

Reece Parker was a level 3 advanced carpentry apprentice and his work provider has reassured him that he is "more than happy to take me on"

The teenager said the key is to stay positive.

"You're got to be really.. otherwise you lose all sort of moral, stay positive about it, there's always work out there," Reece said.

The apprentices are being invited to CITB sessions across the country.

Sarah Beale, chief executive of CITB, has said she understands it is a "very worrying time" for the apprentices who were on Carillion's programme.

"We can help them restart their training and get their careers back on track if they get in touch with us.

"Our industry needs the skills these young people are developing and we want to help them find new employers and get their qualifications."