Members of Mayo VEC had various concerns over numerous aspects of the new SOLAS training body which is set to replace the highly controversial FÁS agency during a meeting of Mayo VEC last week.
Funding, accreditation and the timeframe of the change were just some of the issues which representatives aired grievances about in relation to the new body as members discussed a SOLAS Consultation Paper which had been recently received.
Fianna Fáil Cllr Micheál McNamara said the reason he had an issue with SOLAS was because of doubts over certification and funding which blighted its predecessors FAS. He continued and added, “The provider of courses should not be responsible for examining participants. An independent role is needed for examiners.”
Independent Cllr Richard Finn said the requirements of the local economy and attaining value for money should be the top priorities when ensuring the best education and training procedures are put in place. He continued, “The VECs are losing out in relation to funding. There’s a great responsibility to vet these private providers. In lots of cases they are private companies. I personally know one course which cost €115,000 to run and nine participants completed the course over a nine week period. “
Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn announced last July that SOLAS will take over the education and training role of FÁS. As part of this changeover SOLAS will oversee the implementation of 16 Local Education and Training Boards (LETBs) which will replace the 33 city and county VECs. Relevant legislation in relation to this is due to be published shortly.
Ballina based Cllr Johnny O’Malley stated, “For me there is too much rush. There has been a huge deal of work between the break-up of FAS and the reorganisation of SOLAS. He added, “We’re rushing at it. These things are supposed to last a long time. I would much prefer if time was taken and it was set up properly. This will shape the whole future for people looking for further education.”
Chairman of Mayo VEC, Fine Gael Cllr Jarlath Munnelly concluded, “It’s a change which aims to make our education requirements more suitable for today. If the implementation of SOLAS is done quickly and we can hit the ground running, and SOLAS can help to get some of our unemployed people back to work it will have been very beneficial [in the long term].”