THOUSANDS of jobless could be left languishing on the dole for years unless the Government radically overhauls back-to-work training, a scathing new report has revealed.
The agency that advises Taoiseach Enda Kenny on economic and social development yesterday claimed that significant numbers of unemployed found the current jobs training system held "little of real relevance" to offer them.
The National Economic and Social Council (NESC) delivered a grim warning that it would take years to create the jobs needed to reduce the current 14.3pc unemployment rate.
And it said that unless the Government took action, the 317,500 people who had lost their jobs in the past three years and the new workers shut out by the recession would be "scarred for the rest of their lives". The report will increase the pressure on the Government to deliver on its promise to create a new body to help jobseekers find the best training and education -- the National Employment and Entitlement Service (NEES).
And it will also have to speed up the process of improving the body doing much of the training -- FAS -- which is being rebranded as Solas. Criticising current job training policy, the agency said that the new JobBridge programme announced recently to provide placements for 5,000 unemployed graduates would not put a dent in the unemployment figures unless it was expanded further.
"The last three years have shown just how comatose the Irish labour market is. It is now possible that the level of employment may register no net increase until 2013. Until there is a revival of domestic demand, a large proportion of those now unemployed face bleak employment prospects," it said.
The NESC report highlighted the case of the 2,800 Dell workers made redundant in Limerick two years ago. Its report found that around 1,000 of the workers in the factory who had not finished secondary school were unlikely to take up further educational training.
The report said this was a realistic assessment of how older workers with significant family commitments and years of industrial experience were likely to respond to calls to tell them to "return to school".
Last night, the Government said the NESC report was a "valuable addition" which would help guide the creation of NEES.
NESC includes the heads of four Government departments, as well as representatives of employers, unions and campaign groups.
In its report, it pointed to the problem of the State providing training courses that were unsuitable for the unemployed people taking part -- but which succeeded in reducing the numbers on the Live Register.
"If the courses do not demonstrably advance unemployed people's best interests, it is legitimate to question the value for money being achieved and to suspect a degree of collusion in massaging the unemployment figures," it said.
The report said that Ireland needed to engage in a significant degree of "catch up" to help the unemployed find work and deal with the constant competition from "new waves of more recently unemployed jobseekers".