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FÁS & Congress Workplace Learning collaboration targets low-skilled employees

Published on 22nd September, 2010

A group of over 40 workplace learning representatives, who have volunteered to support their work colleagues to increase their skills levels, were presented with their FETAC Certificates by Minister for Lifelong Learning, Seán Haughey, TD in Roscommon today (Wednesday, 22nd September, 2010).

These learning representatives are participants in the innovative ‘Union Skills Network’ which was a collaborative venture between FÁS and Congress (Irish Congress of Trade Unions). Based in over 15 different organizations nationwide, these learning representatives have been tasked with supporting colleagues in identifying their specific learning needs and facilitating the development of personal and individual learning plans. Some of the organisations in which the learning representatives currently work include Glanbia, Bord na Mona, Heatons, Athlone Extrusions, Tesco Ireland, among many others.

To date, over 1,200 workers with low levels of qualification have engaged in this lifelong learning process which prioritises essential workplace skills including IT, personal effectiveness, problem-solving and team working.

Presenting the awards, Minister Haughey said ‘This is a truly innovative partnership involving companies, unions and employees encouraging workers to take up the lifelong learning challenge.

‘The Learning Representative with the co-operation of the employer and the trade union will assist their low-skilled colleagues in identifying learning needs and will support them through a process of developing personal and individual learning plans’.

‘I am encouraged to see so many companies supporting the role out of this important programme in their operations, the enormous commitment of employees who choose to become trained in order to assist their colleagues and the hard work and dedication of FÁS and ICTU in bringing this vital programme to fruition.’

The significant number of people in the workforce without second level qualifications has been highlighted as a serious issue in a series of social and economic reports, including the National Skills Strategy Report (March 2007). FÁS Manager Strategic Initiatives and Alliances, Mr Jack Horgan added: “Social justice, together with the economic need for maintaining competitiveness, requires that this situation be addressed. The core of FÁS service is the provision of second-chance learning opportunities to support the up-skilling of both employed and unemployed members of the workforce. For thousands of adults, FÁS has been a gateway back to learning.

Addressing those present, Mr Horgan continued: “FÁS is very pleased to be involved with Congress in this innovative venture in lifelong learning. We commend everyone involved. Most importantly, we congratulate this first group of learning representatives for their inspiring and selfless work in being advocates for learning amongst their colleagues. It is our firm hope that the concept of workplace learning representatives will continue beyond the term of the strategic alliance between ICTU and FÁS and become as embedded a role as that of the Safety Representative within the workplace. The benefits to the workforce and to the economy in the long-term are incalculable.”

Also speaking at the event, Congress Assistant General Secretary, Sally Anne Kinahan said "This project serves a really crucial purpose. It targets low skilled workers who are especially vulnerable in this downturn. And there will be no sustainable recovery unless we have workers with the latest skills and qualifications. That requires investment in people - upskilling those still in employment and those who are out of work.

FÁS continues its commitment in providing innovative training and up-skilling targeted solutions to support its key client groups. This proactive project complements other FÁS initiatives to ensure that Ireland continues to be recognised as a ‘knowledge-based’ society and offering a highly skilled, talented and educated workforce.


For further information contact:
Brian O’Malley

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