Warning over job cuts at Sheffield training provider The Source

Tricia Smith chief executive of The Source Skills Academy
Tricia Smith chief executive of The Source Skills Academy

A major Sheffield training provider is shedding up to 14 staff due to widespread shop closures and a national plunge in apprentices.

Bosses at The Source Skills Academy called staff into a meeting to give them the bombshell news that up to 14 could go, some before Christmas.

The organisation, which has an office opposite Meadowhall, specialises in the retail and hospitality sectors and has been hit by a downturn on the high street and hundreds of shop closures.

Chief executive Tricia Smith said: “It’s the last thing we want. The Source has worked extremely hard for 15 years to support people to be a success in the workplace. But we have been driven to this. There has been a downturn in the retail sector and the survivors are concentrating on staying in business.

“When an apprentice is a commitment of one to three years, it has a knock-on effect on training.”

The Source has also been hit by the apprentice levy which requires firms to contribute to the cost of training.

Since 2016 there has been a 43 per cent reduction nationally in apprentices, she added.

Meanwhile, the government has mooted reducing the cost of training from 10 per cent to five per cent for some firms, which has led to some postponing apprentice recruitment.

And a tightening of the rules requiring apprentices to spend a day a week in the classroom had also been unpopular with employers.

But Ms Smith said she believed the worst was over. Numbers at The Source have fallen from 120 three years ago to 82 today.

“This is not the end of The Source by any stretch. The restructure is about ensuring we will deliver in the long term. I think things will improve, but slowly.”

The sudden withdrawal of government fundings to national provider AAA, leading to its collapse last month, could present an opportunity, she added.

“I think national retailers will change to a more regional approach. We are a charity and we are not allowed to keep large reserves. We’ve had a moratorium on spending, we’ve cut costs and we’re encouraging staff to look at part-time and job sharing and to come forward with ideas.”

A consultation period ends in four weeks.

The Source is OFSTED rated ‘good’. In 2017/18 its apprenticeship success rates were 81.4 per cent, which is 13.7 per cent above the national average, Ms Smith said. And its employer and learner satisfaction rates (via the FE Choices Survey) are 97 per cent and 91 per cent respectively.