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Sunday 17 December 2017

Coughlan rules out shutting down under-fire jobs agency

Anita Guidera and Shane Phelan

TANAISTE and Education Minister Mary Coughlan has emphatically ruled out shutting jobs agency FAS.

Ms Coughlan was commenting following the publication of a report which highlighted shoddy courses around the country.

Speaking during a visit to Ballinode College in Sligo, the Tanaiste said the report raised issues of some concern, but stressed that new structures would safeguard the quality of courses into the future.

"No it's not (going to be shut down). I have set up a new board. We have set up new structures," she said.

"There will be a new strategic plan brought forward by the board which I believe will really focus where the FAS training agency needs to have its focus.

"I believe that the new frameworks that have been set down will achieve the quality and assurance that is necessary for anyone attending a course."

She insisted that she believed FAS was dealing with the issues that were highlighted in the review.

The Tanaiste also claimed the issues were "historical", despite the fact her junior education minister, Sean Haughey, acknowledged last week that 1,700 certificates were being withheld from students in the north-east because of training course irregularities.

The board of FAS is to meet today to discuss the report and will later brief Ms Coughlan.

Board chairman Michael Dempsey hinted that a major revamp could be in the offing, but was unable to say whether the agency would be renamed and rebranded. "As far as I am concerned, we need a new skills organisation that is world class," he said.

When asked to clarify his comments, Mr Dempsey said "a reconfiguration of FAS" was needed.

"We need to become a new organisation in terms of that," he said.

"I don't want to comment anymore until the minister and the board have dealt with it. But certainly I am talking about a whole new refocused organisation for skills and training -- a radical overhaul," he added.

Irish Independent

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