I thank the Cathaoirleach for selecting this matter. I have met a number of people who either left school in the past year or two, could be just coming up to their leaving certificate examination or have been ten years working on construction sites and now find themselves back in County Donegal unemployed and on jobseeker's allowance or some other social welfare payment. A person recently told me they had done a construction studies course and were looking for an apprenticeship with the support of FÁS. When I asked the person as to why they were interested in pursuing construction at this time when the construction industry was in a negative dip, the person said their friends, their older brothers, uncles and other relations had all done the same sort of course.
There is a traditional concept of how people are employed in places such as Donegal in areas such as fishing and farming. For females Fruit of the Loom was one of the traditional employers. In recent times the construction industry has been a major employer. Many people might think of career guidance as people going on to do career-oriented academic courses in university. While many people are making their decisions on college applications and will be completing CAO forms leading up to Christmas, many will not take that route. They are people who are good with their hands and want to be outdoors doing something that is non-academic. Will the Tánaiste arrange for the careers guidance personnel within her staff and, in the enterprise sector, business people who have initiated businesses that are outside the box, as it were, to hold seminars in places such as Inishowen, Letterkenny, Donegal town and the surrounding areas? These seminars would examine the alternatives for people who only ever have seen a traditional route in employment. When I was doing my leaving certificate I was told by the careers guidance teacher that as I was studying music I should continue it. I was never told there were alternatives. If I had been a stronger character I might have done something different but I ended up spending seven years studying music in university. When I left I became a politician.
People would appreciate guidance in opening their eyes to opportunities such as window cleaning, gutter repairs or anything involving outdoor work. The people who approach me about this have, for example, worked for the council and been laid off because they only had temporary contracts. They want hands-on jobs but no one is telling them in what areas there is business, thereby opening their eyes to the potential.
I am aware that FÁS retrains people. Many of its courses are based on computers and many people appreciate that. People who thought they did not have an aptitude for computers are learning and developing those skills. Significant work is going on through the Further Education and Training Awards Council, FETAC, and there are locations, especially in Buncrana, for adult education. Undoubtedly, there are many training opportunities. My specific request is that people who think outside the box would hold a few seminars and open up opportunities to people on the live register who are seeking alternatives to traditional roles such as construction, fishing and farming, although I do not wish to encourage people to leave the land. Females should be included in this. While the Donegal County Enterprise Board is doing tremendous work to support women in business, it is the triggering of the imagination that must happen. There is a great opportunity in that regard to link the education, employment and skills training aspects of various Departments.