Hundreds of frustrated jobseekers looking to learn a new skill to boost their employment chances have been left thousands of pounds out of pocket after signing up to an online training college, This is Money can reveal.
Train4Jobs advertises itself as an education centre where those enrolling will learn a trade, such as becoming an electrician or a plumber, from home – a promising prospect for those stuck at home during lockdown.
However, in reality, ‘students’ are left paying off hundreds of pounds a month for a course that did not provide any real accreditation – with some even being door stepped by the firm into signing up.
Some have been threatened with legal action by the company after speaking out against them online.
There are several online colleges that are seemingly conning jobseekers out of their money
Within the past couple of weeks, This is Money has been contacted by numerous people who have been affected by Train4Jobs and their respective partners.
Train4Jobs appears to a trading name for Metropolitan International Schools Limited that also trades under the names Train4Skills, New Trades Career and Train4Trade to name just a few.
All seem to be linked by a handful of directors who manage the above companies according to Companies House.
The companies operate by advertising themselves as an online college that can give those struggling for work a trade.
The colleges, including Train4Jobs, promise to provide students with correct qualifications such as BPEC and NVQ Level 1, 2 and 3 which are the industry standard.
However, many have learnt the actual qualifications aren’t City and Guilds certified – an educational organisation that offers many accredited qualifications including National Vocational Qualifications – meaning they are unable to take on a job.
‘I was told hotels would be paid for’
Ryan Alden is one such person who has received a letter from Train4Jobs threatening to sue him with defamation.
He believes this is because he is an admin of a Facebook group that is home to a number of people who have been affected by the company.
Ryan initially signed up to Train4Jobs in 2017 when he saw an advert on Facebook saying those registering could learn a new trade in their own time.
After adding in all his details, he didn’t hear anything but thought nothing of it.
Around a month or so later, however, a man turned up at his house claiming to be from Train4Jobs with some course information.
Initially he sent him away, arranging an alternative date. When the man returned he asked Ryan to sign up and give his bank details so he could pay monthly for the course.
Ryan did so, although he thought it was an odd approach, as he wanted to leave his current position and train for a new one.
He said: ‘I was told that there were limited spaces left on the course, and I would need to ‘act fast’ to secure my placement as he only had two spaces remaining.’
The most common trade qualifications to have are NVQ’s which are offered by City and Guilds
After giving his details over, he was handed his first course book and was told there would be numerous online tests he had to pass as well as a practical session per module of which there would be 24.
The rep advised the nearest practical training location to him was in Basildon but when it finally came to actually having one of these sessions, he was told the nearest one was in Luton, where the firm is thought to be based.
Ryan said: ‘The man said he would pay for my hotel each weekend I had to do training sessions. Except there were never any hotels or training sessions.’
He couldn’t get to Luton as he doesn’t drive and didn’t have the money for transport.
Train4Jobs informed him that due to this he would have to wait until the next session became available and until then, he couldn’t progress.
Since then, he has received only two more course books, many of which he claims are mis-spelt and no further training.
Ryan added: ‘I have confirmation from the company providing the training that the centre isn’t able to offer AM2 tests, which is one of the tests needed to become qualified.’
‘I have marks on my credit file’: How Train4Jobs has affected applicants
It is not just Ryan who has had a negative experience with Train4Jobs, numerous other people have been left in similar situations. Two people below explain how they were affected.
Natalie, said: ‘My partner, Sam, signed up for a contract with Train4Jobs in 2014. We had a salesman come to the house who sold him the idea of becoming a fully qualified plumber and said he would be able to start doing work after his first year of study.
‘The man rang a finance company in front of us and fudged some of the finance paperwork, ignoring some outgoings and upping some incoming amounts to ensure Sam would be accepted onto the £7,000 loan.
‘We were told verbally the first amount would be £160 followed by £80 per month but this never changed. When we attempted to change the amount, they sent an expenditure accepting £100 per month but putting a mark on his credit file.’
Andy was also approached by a salesman at his home and felt pressured to sign up. After doing so, he was left paying £170 a month.
He said: ‘The book I was given to study didn’t always have the answer so I would go online to try to find the questions were out of date. It was getting complicated and not much if any teaching involved.
‘If I rang the number I often left the phone none the wiser and with no help just saying I had to go to libraries and trade shops to find some information.
‘By now I had paid thousands so was caught up. When completing the online tests, they often came back with a mistake so I had to wait another week to 10 days to retake the test. I think I paid them about £6,000 and can’t even unblock my kitchen sink.’
Although he was told when starting the course he could complete it in whatever time he chose i.e. six months or six years, he had since found out students must complete the course in 36 months.
He now cannot even complete any course as it has been over three years and has stopped paying the finance company that is still taking money from his bank account every month.
So far, Ryan has paid £167 a month to a finance firm, totaling over £7,000, and all he has had in return is three textbooks.
He said: ‘I did not know that I was signing a loan agreement with Carnegie consumer finance. The course was sold to me as a monthly paid fee directly to Train4Jobs. No paperwork was completed but all digitally on a laptop.’
This is Money has attempted to contact Train4Jobs by email but has had no response at time of publishing.
Whilst able to connect to the phone number on the website for student information, we were advised the questions had been passed on and somebody would reply if they chose to.
The service agent on the phone advised that Train4Jobs shut down a couple of years ago with its website saying: ‘We regret to inform you that we are currently not accepting new registrations at this time, and that the college and its courses are fully subscribed.’
However, many others have popped up in its place since its closure.
Charlie Mullins, boss of Pimlico Plumbers, wants the Government to standardise the trade sector
Standardising the industry
Even before coronavirus, the UK labour market was evolving quickly with greater emphasis on upskilling and reskilling.
The pandemic has intensified this leading to more people looking to change careers and retrain, opening the door to these fraudsters.
Charlie Mullins OBE, founder of Pimlico Plumbers, said: ‘This sort of thing has been going on for years. All these colleges want to do is get bums on seats and take people’s money.
‘We won’t employ anyone who goes on these courses and most other reputable companies would be the same. These colleges are just leading them on and giving them a false qualification.’
In America, plumbers have to have a proper licence. Over here, we don’t have that. Instead, all you need is a bag of tools and off you go. It is getting worse now as there is a skill shortage.
Charlie Mullins – Pimlico Plumbers
He believes the Government need to standardise the trade industry to avoid people being ripped off by companies claiming to provide a proper education.
‘It creates a breed of cowboys. In America, plumbers have to have a proper licence. Over here, we don’t have that. Instead, all you need is a bag of tools and off you go. It is getting worse now as there is a skill shortage.
‘The situation with the virus means even more people are re-training. Pimlico Plumbers has been talking to the Government and we’ve told them they need to standardise the industry as currently anyone can advertise themselves as a plumber.
‘It’s bad for the industry and gives it a bad name. All these courses need to be shut down and stop giving out misguided information.’
Since the pandemic began in March, there has been a 70 per cent rise in job scam reports, according to SAFERjobs, a firm that helps jobseekers recognise real jobs and avoid scams.
It added that it estimates around 3,000 job seekers a month are falling victim to this with the average job scam costing UK work seekers £4,000.
Keith Rosser, chief executive of SAFERjobs, said: ‘The pandemic has seen a big rise in fake jobs advertised online and with more people searching for work and the ease with which fraudsters can post fake jobs, this is only set to increase further in 2021.
‘People should remain cautious when receiving job offers at short notice for generic sounding roles. People should look out for being pressurised during the process, requests for money, and poorly written job or training offers.
‘SAFERjobs offers free advice for workers during the job application process and in the event of fraud occurring.
‘With seasonal pressures requiring temporary work, the post Covid recovery next year, and the sad reality of so many people looking for jobs the volume and complexity of these scams will only continue to rise.’
How to ensure the job you apply for is real
SAFERjobs have provided some top tips to help jobseekers know whether the position they are applying for is real – or if it is a scam.
1) Be wary of being asked to pay for training in order to get a job.
2) Be sceptical about poorly written adverts, communications, and/or training materials.
3) Look out for very generic job specifications or course descriptions designed to enable anyone to apply.
4) Be wary of pressure selling either when applying for a job or enquiring about training.
If you are concerned, report to safer-jobs.com for free help. Conduct background research on the companies involved including checking Companies House and online reviews.
If training is required for a job, suggest obtaining the qualification elsewhere to assess whether it is legitimate or not.
Check the validity of the course with the accreditation or awarding body if there is one.
Additional reporting by Rosie Grant
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