Wednesday, 4 February 2004

Ceisteanna (160)

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

248 Ms O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Science the actions which have been taken to implement the commitment in Sustaining Progress to establish a workplace basic education strategy; if it is intended to establish a basic education fund; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3264/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Education and Science)

Paragraph 2.8 of Sustaining Progress states that "a workplace basic educationand literacy/numeracy/ information and communication technologies programme will be implemented, building on the recommendations of the National Adult Literacy Agency report on a workplace basic education strategy and the report of the Task Force on Lifelong Learning. Pilot initiatives will be implemented in targeted sectors where there are vulnerable workers, in partnership with trades unions."

The adult literacy service is organised and delivered through the VEC adult literacy schemes throughout the country. The service is resourced and managed by the VECs through funding from my Department. The National Adult Literacy Agency receives funding from my Department to support policy initiatives, tutor training, development of materials etc. in the area of adult literacy. Specific funding has been provided for a course in workplace basic skills training for experienced group literacy tutors. This course is designed to familiarise literacy tutors with the key issues in basic skills training in the workplace and also identifies strategies for introducing and implementing programmes in this context. Joint initiatives are developed at local level through co-operation between VECs, FÁS, NALA and local employers.

Programmes under way at national level include the return to education programme, a joint initiative between FÁS, VECs and NALA which provides an intensive literacy programme for community employment workers on FÁS community employment schemes. A focused workplace literacy programme is available nationwide for local authority outdoor staff. There are also successful workplace literacy programmes in two hospitals and in a trade union.

The commitment and support of employers is a fundamental requirement for the successful implementation of workplace literacy programmes. In seeking to support and encourage employers to participate in such programmes, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment has approved a project proposal from NALA to design and deliver a workplace basic education programme for SMEs. A pilot programme for the development of a certificate in workplace skills has also been approved by that Department under the ESF aided in-company training measure of the human resources development operational programme.

There are no plans at present to establish a dedicated fund for workplace basic education. The matter will be considered jointly by my Department and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment in the context of a review of the recommendations outlined in the NALA report, Workplace Basic Education Programmes in Ireland: Approaches and Models for Implementation.

Further developments in this area are likely to be influenced by the recommendations of the adult basic skills initiative working group, which comprised representatives of six EU countries, including Ireland. The final report of this group is expected shortly.