independent

Monday 21 April 2014

VEC staff to face cut in holidays after FAS scrapped

STAFF at Vocational Education Committees (VECs) will have to give up their summer holidays as part of the Government's decision to scrap the state training agency FAS.

The changes will not affect the summer holidays of primary or secondary teachers employed by VECs. But it will affect VEC staff who provide further education courses for adults.

FAS is being replaced by a new body called Solas, which will be getting Vocational Education Committees (VECs) around the country to provide more modern training courses for workers. In an interview with the Irish Independent, Junior Minister Ciaran Cannon said one of the issues that had come up was that VECs shut down in summer but FAS did not. He said that under the new model, training courses would have to be provided "all year round".

"We hope to be able to achieve compromise through a process of negotiation and conciliation to bring the two models together," he said.

FAS director general Paul O'Toole confirmed negotiations would take place with unions about getting more "flexibility" from these VEC staff over their summer holidays. "It's one of the challenges that we have but I absolutely do not think it's insurmountable," he said.

It is part of the biggest transformation in decades of the social welfare system. And the most visible sign will be the scrapping of FAS this year, 25 years after it was set up.

The agency suffered a fatal blow to its reputation during the economic crash with revelations of expensive foreign trips and damning official reports into the ineffectiveness of many of its training courses.

Problems

Mr O'Toole said the biggest problems in FAS had been dealt with "head on" over the past number of years.

"I can say with confidence that we have re-organised our governance structure and financial systems and we've worked really hard to make sure our product is more relevant to the jobs of the future," he said.

The responsibility for shutting down FAS and setting up a better training structure for the unemployed was handed to an implementation group, which was chaired by Mr Cannon.

There will be a new body, Solas, which will decide what training courses are required. The responsibility for delivering these courses will be given to either private companies or the country's VECs.

The new system is designed to put an end to complaints about unemployed people being shoe-horned into useless training courses.

FAS was criticised in the past for not tracking the progress of people who had taken part in training courses. Mr Cannon said Solas and the training boards would have new IT systems to measure for the first time how useful people found the courses and whether they found jobs as a result.

Irish Independent

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