Tis a shame, unfortunately, from what ive heard, apprenticeships are being "very" picky over who they accept nowadays, because they are severely limited to how many people they can take on.
Im guessing that as he has a major IT qualification already, which I am admittadly presuming he was trained for free, they are probably going along the lines of give the apprenticeship to someone who has nothing and also wants to train in IT.
He should be able to get a job off the back of a diploma, even moreso if he is actually good in practice (and not just in theory like a lot of people). It's a tough market out there, but he has to keep trying - maybe even applying for non-IT jobs, office jobs etc, even retail jobs etc, so he can get some work History
, and more importantly, employer references under his belt first. Its better to work your way up, than wait for a job to land at your feet.