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FÁS to be replaced with new agency 'SOLAS'

The Minister for Education has announced that the employment authority FÁS will be replaced with a new agency named SOLAS, which will respond to the requirements of “a changed and changing economy”.

The beleaguered FÁS training agency is to be replaced with a new authority named Solas.
The beleaguered FÁS training agency is to be replaced with a new authority named Solas.
Image: Eamonn Farrell

THE GOVERNMENT HAS announced that the state training agency FÁS will be disbanded and replaced with a new, reformed authority named SOLAS.

SOLAS (Seirbhísí Oideachais Leanúnaigh agus Scileanna), meaning ‘beacon’ or ‘light’ in Irish, will continue many of the functions of FÁS under the aegis of the Department of Education and Skills by co-ordinating and funding a range of training and further education programmes around the country.

Requirements of a changing economy

The Minister for Education and Skills, Ruairí Quinn, said today: “The new SOLAS mandate will be to ensure the provision of 21st century high-quality further education and training programmes to jobseekers and other learners”.

Quinn said that the reformed agency’s programmes would respond to the needs of learners and the requirements of “a changed and changing economy”. SOLAS training is intended to mark a shift away from skills provision for traditional occupations like construction which have seen a huge fall in employment, Quinn said, and instead will provide “greater focus on training and education programmes which prepare jobseekers and other learners for occupations in growth areas like the services, ICT, medical devices, food and biopharma sectors”.

The new agency will place greater emphasis on “generic, transferable skills” like people-related skills, thinking and problem-solving skills and digital literacy skills, Quinn said.

Controversy

FÁS has been at the centre of controversy over the past number of years, following a series of revelations concering the spending of resources by the agency: in 2008 it emerged that FÁS management had spent some of its annual budget on foreign holidays for executives and their partners, and had also spent €600,000 on a television advert that was never aired.

However, Minister Quinn insisted that the announcement was  ”not in any way to cast aspersions on the good and important work that the FÁS Board, the VEC Committee members and the FÁS and VEC staff have done in recent times”. He added that SOLAS “will be underpinned by stronger quality assurance, occupational standards, international benchmarks and course content reviews”.

Current courses will not be affected

Participants currently taking part in FÁS and further education courses will not be affected by the establishment of SOLAS, the Minister said, and will be able to continue their courses under the new authority.

The legislation will need to be passed by the Oireachtas before FÁS can be renamed, but the change will happen on administrative basis as soon as possible, the Department said in a statement this morning. As part of the restructuring process, some staff and premises are to be transferred to the Department of Social Protection and some will continue working under SOLAS. Over time, FÁS Training Centre premises and most FÁS regional staff will be transferred to the VECs.

Read more about FÁS:

Former FÁS manager given four years’ jail over €600k fraud >

FETAC refuses to hand out Fás certs until probe completed into courses >

FÁS ‘to be replaced’ by new state training agency >

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