SOLAS Bill can enhance further education in the future –Jonathan O’Brien TD
Sinn Féin education spokesperson, Jonathan O’Brien TD, has said that if it is implemented properly, The Further Education and Training Bill (2013) (FET Bill) will streamline and improve further education for many years to come.
The Cork North Central TD made his comments his party’s opening speech on the Second Stage of the Bill which will assign responsibility for coordinating and funding for further education and training to the a newly established education and training authority called An tSeirbhis Oideachais Leanúnaig agus Scileanna (SOLAS).
Deputy O’Brien said: “The FET Bill is part of a radical process of rationalisation and amalgamation.
“It comes at a time when a significant number of citizens of this state have been laid low by an economic meltdown that can only be reversed by stimulating job creation and enhanced employment opportunities.
“Its importance, in overseeing funding and driving forward policy across the further education sector, cannot be overstated and the establishment of SOLAS under the FET Bill will hopefully bring closure to one of the worse scandals arising from the workings of a government state body since the formation of this this state.
“The scandalous misuse of funds and expenditure by senior FÁS personnel, that came to light in 2008, discredited an organisation that had done much good work in helping generating employment since its inception in the 1980s.
“It is against this legacy of recklessness and irresponsibility that SOLAS is tasked with funding the delivery of service from the 16 new education training boards (ETBS).
“For too long we have had a dysfunctional training system that has contributed greatly to a disastrous waste of potential talent in people who, if provided with the proper assistance, can play an integral part in helping to kick-start our economic revival.
“In order to enhance the delivery of further education and training we need to establish a more integrated and coherent system that can meet the future needs of the Irish labour market.
“The starting point for this reform should be the development of an integrated quality service that is able to cater for a wide range of learning needs for the labour marked.
“There are also concerns that the functions of SOLAS have been limited by the narrowness of their scope which while identifying employers as key stakeholders have neglected to engage in any meaningful way with providers of FET and adult learners themselves.
“Current labour market programmes are limited in the way they cater for people with literacy and numeracy needs and all too often they fail to address the needs of the long-term unemployed.
“SOLAS should be required to consult with adult learners in the development of the FET strategy and Sinn Féin supports the proposals put forward by NALA and AONTAS that there should be a dedicated adult learner prospective on the Board of SOLAS.”