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Over-30s jobless flock to FAS for training

The average age of online applicants for FAS training programmes is almost 35.

A large number of out-of-work people are turning to the internet to sign up for alternative training, allowing the agency to compile profiles of the newly unemployed.

The data shows that the average age of participants is now 34.8 years -- higher than would be expected for the courses on offer.

The recession has forced thousands of experienced workers to fall back on education and while FAS only process online applications for fee-paying clients, it gives a good snapshot of the type of person signing up. In the past 12 months, a total of 632 participants have registered online.

"Taken together these applications give the average age of participants of 34.8 years," said the junior minister at the Department of Enterprise Dara Calleary.

Dublin South Central TD Catherine Byrne has expressed some surprise at the age given that one in three men aged under 25 are unemployed.

She has also raised concerns that FAS have been slow to respond to some of the online applicants. "A number of people have been on to me about courses online," she told the Herald.

"Some constituents have told me that they applied early in January and still in February were waiting for somebody to get back to them."

Mr Calleary said that the online system was very effective.

"Accounts are created automatically upon validation of credit card payment and the processing of online applications takes a maximum of five minutes," he said.

But Mr Byrne added that some newly unemployed are being forced to take up training, even though they have decades of experience.

"In general my gut feeling is that FAS are a little too late in what they are trying to do," she said adding: "One man in the building trade was on to me to say at 62 he was sent to an employment agency and told he would have to retrain."

Meanwhile, Mr Calleary has also defended FAS role in providing assistance for redundant apprentices.

Outlining the options available to them, he explained that over 2,000 redundant apprentices were provided with off-the-job training in 2009.

A further 1,041 redundant apprentices began off-the-job training in January.