FAS still has a role to play in training, says union chief
THE leader of the largest trade union believes troubled state agency FAS can overcome its "problems" and stay open.
As the board of the training agency meets today to consider its future following a new scandal over courses, SIPTU general president Jack O'Connor claimed its work was still needed.
Today's board meeting will consider revelations that hundreds of trainees who completed courses in its external training division may never get their certificates after the EU stopped its funding.
It will also examine a report on auditing irregularities found in a review of 301 courses run by external companies on the agency's behalf.
The Irish Independent revealed last week that an internal FAS investigation had uncovered evidence of "suspected malpractice" in the running of a number of courses.
But Mr O'Connor claimed yesterday that the agency still had a role and rejected the suggestion of Labour Party education spokesman Ruairi Quinn that it should be closed down.
Mr Quinn said the agency's credibility had been destroyed and its training fund should be pumped into institutes of technology rather than allowing "half-baked" consultants to run courses in hotel rooms around the country.
However, Mr O'Connor said on RTE's 'This Week': "I think there are problems with Fas and there are problems that are capable of being overcome and are being overcome."
"I think that what's critically important in the context of where we're at now, is primarily that we embark on an economic course that has regard to the interests of the great many people that are without work and who are in danger of losing their jobs in this country."
He said to develop a "sustainable" economy, the State had to have an organisation capable of co-ordinating skills and training policy.
The union leader opposed Mr Quinn's suggestion that the agency's training fund be given to third-level institutions because he said many unemployed people could not "access" them.