Employment Action Plan

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.

Ba mhaith liom mo bhuíochas a ghabháil don Seanadóir as ucht an ábhair seo a chur inár dteannta. A wide range of career guidance services are provided by a number of agencies across the job search support, training and education sectors under the aegis of the Departments of Education and Skills and Social Protection.

FÁS employment services provide a range of services and supports to all job seekers who can register at one of the 63 local FÁS employment service offices nationwide for on-site career guidance and job placement services. The services include guidance interviews with an employment services officer for job seekers, including those in the sectors where employment has declined and to whom the Senator referred. The services also include curriculum vitae, CV, preparation and job search skills, a job seeker pack, referral to training or education courses, input of CVs onto the FÁS database to enable employers to contact an applicant directly, financial supports and other options which may lead to employment, and a national freefone call centre. FÁS also provides a fast-track response to company closures and major redundancies with provision of a range of flexible and customised job-seeking supports and training.

The FÁS website links to the European Employment Services network, EURES, job mobility network and database which provides access to job vacancies in 31 countries, as well as practical information such as necessary documentation for those seeking employment within Europe. In addition to this, in 2009 and 2010 FÁS and EURES held public careers advice and employment events in a number of locations throughout the country which were well attended. Under the national employment action plan, the Department of Social Protection refers persons in receipt of unemployment payments to the national employment service or to education or training courses. The Department of Social Protection works closely with FÁS on the activation profiling case management project in such areas as customer profiling, client referrals and case management.

Careers guidance is also provided in post-primary schools and colleges of further education nationally, with 700 guidance posts approved for this purpose. The guidance programme in schools includes providing information on subject and programme choices and their career implications, enabling students to make an objective assessment of their own interests and aptitudes and to relate these to further education and training and career areas, promoting study and self-management skills, career investigation, job search and interview skills, as well as using the ICT tools available to support guidance. Schools develop a range of links with further and higher education and training institutions, encourage visiting speakers and work experience programmes, and provide opportunities for students to attend events such as college open days, careers exhibitions, employment fairs and visits to employers.

There are also 40 adult education guidance initiative, AEGI, services nationally which are designed to serve the needs of adults who are considering or participating in vocational training opportunity schemes, VTOS, or adult literacy, community education or back to education initiative programmes. The AEGI services also assist former residents of designated institutions. Each locally based service has developed a referral network, and works in partnership with organisations such as FÁS, local employment services, the HSE, community groups and the Department of Social Protection offices to address the needs of adults who wish to return to education to increase their job prospects and opportunities. The objective of the referral networks is to share information, ensure an integrated approach to the delivery of area-based services, make other services aware of the AEGI and ensure agencies in a position to identify adults in need can refer them to an appropriate service.

The National Centre for Guidance in Education, NCGE, collaborates closely with FÁS in the delivery of guidance supports to schools. Both NCGE and FÁS are designated national centres for sharing information with other member states of the EU on guidance in education and vocational training respectively. Career directions developed by FÁS provide information on the requirements of different occupations and the career paths and qualifications which lead to them as well as being a tool to help students identify the types of careers which may match their interests and abilities.

The FÁS database also provides information on the courses available in each region. This material is supplemented bywww.careersportal.ie, a web-based guidance tool developed in the private sector and made available free to schools and learners generally. It provides a self-assessment tool which will help learners identify their interests and potential career avenues, labour market information on different sectors, career profiles and interviews across a wide range of occupations, and searchable links with the Qualifax course database. Both CareersPortal and Qualifax have portal links to the services provided by FÁS. The FÁS website gives access to www.jobsbank.tas.ie which enables job seekers to post their CVs to the website and access jobs or training. It also enables employers to post their vacancies on the site and to search the CVs which have been posted by job seekers.

This work is supplemented by the careers services in higher education institutions which help students with information on education, training and job opportunities, facilitate employer presentations, site visits and interviews, and help with job placement. The main focus of guidance services in the education sector is to serve the needs of clients enrolled on programmes or considering enrolment. The main focus of the FÁS employment services is to serve the needs of job seekers and the unemployed.

It will be seen that while the various guidance and employment services have developed in an incremental and fragmented way, they are working together, locally and nationally, to promote an integrated area-based response to needs, to cross-reference as appropriate and to share guidance tools. They each focus on different client needs to avoid overlap and duplication. The restructuring of FÁS services will provide further opportunities to advance an integrated approach in this important area.

I again thank the Senator for giving me the opportunity to outline the current position in this regard. As part of our activation measures which have gone to the private sector, there is a new innovative process which, if it works well as a pilot project, could be considered for a national means of providing a new career-integrated jobs path and career guidance which I believe might be of benefit.

I thank the Tánaiste for her reply. Much of it was about careers guidance which is the subject of the matter I raised. Triggering entrepreneurship as opposed to offering a job vacancy is an issue in which I have great interest. How do we get people to develop their own ideas as opposed to reacting to vacancies that exist? If possible, could the Minister provide me with a list of where the FÁS and EURES events were held? If an event has not yet been held in east Donegal, perhaps she would facilitate one being held there either before the end of 2010 or in the beginning of 2011. It would be much appreciated.