Anxiety for thousands as FAS fate kept in dark
THOUSANDS of FAS staff and apprentices were in the dark about their future today after Tanaiste Mary Coughlan said it would be replaced next year.
The State training agency, which has a €1bn budget, currently has 2,000 staff and 72,000 apprentices and workers on training courses.
Around 800 staff are in employment services, which is being transferred to the Department of Social Protection.
The other 1,200 are involved in training, apprenticeship, offices, payments to trainees and other duties. Some trainers were redeployed because there was not enough work for them due to the reduction in apprentice numbers.
The Government has yet to decide whether the new agency replacing it will keep the FAS name, its €1bn budget and what new measures will be put in place to improve performance at a time when 442,000 workers are on the dole queue.
The organisation has been dogged by expenses scandals. The new agency will be given direct responsibility for training workers and will be under the control of the Department of Education rather than the Department of Enterprise.
Speaking in a two-day Dail debate on the economy, Ms Coughlan said: "It is my intention that in the New Year, we will see a renewed and freshly-mandated training agency assume the training work of FAS. Our focus on quality in the past has served us well but we need to do more," she said.
The Department of Education currently has a draft plan for the new agency, which was drawn up by the FAS board earlier this month, but is not publishing it.
Ms Coughlan, who said earlier this month that FAS would not be scrapped, maintained again yesterday that she was not "getting rid" of it.
"It is important for the staff and for morale that we are looking at a re-energising of a training agency appropriate for the economy, and this will be done with the new board and with the strategic plan it is bringing forward, " she said.
FAS staff are protected from compulsory redundancies under the Croke Park Agreement signed by public sector unions.