Quinn promises training sector boost

 

THE STATE has treated further education and training as the “black sheep’’ of the education system, Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn said yesterday.

Successive ministers for education, he said, had fixated on the primary and second-level school system, or on the higher-education sector.

Addressing vocational school managers in Cavan, Mr Quinn said the Fás brand has been badly damaged in recent years, and that was why the Government had established Solas, the new training authority.

The State, he said, was investing significant resources in further education and training programmes – €900 million is being spent this year on the provision of 270,000 places to enhance citizens’ education and skills levels.

“Programmes are currently provided by many different organisations – Fás, VECs, community groups, second-level schools and private bodies. They have grown organically over the past few decades – too often in an uncoordinated fashion. This has to change,” he said.

“There is an urgent need to bring coherence to the fragmented system, and to have an integrated sector delivering high-quality programmes. There is a need to ensure we deliver programmes that are relevant to the needs of both learners and the economy. That is why we decided to establish Solas.”

Mr Quinn confirmed 33 VECs would soon undergo a radical transformation into 16 new education and training boards. The Government will introduce the Education and Training Boards Bill shortly in the Dáil.

“This will serve as the legislative basis for the new local education and training board system. I intend to have it fully enacted by the end of this year. This is very much a priority project for Government, and a key part of our public reform agenda,” Mr Quinn said.

“This reform is not designed to undermine locally managed education but to strengthen it. Not to diminish the scale of local education and training but to enhance it.”