Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Education Brendan Smith TD has called on Education Minister Ruairí Quinn and the Government to correct the record following the revelation that more than half the 20,900 “additional” training places announced last week as part of the much hyped Jobs Initiative are actually pre-existing places – announced and funded by the last Government.
Deputy Smith commented, “We have welcomed some of the steps being taken in the Jobs Initiative, but it is important that jobseekers are given a true and accurate picture of what is being done. Of the 20,900 training places announced, 5,000 of these places are to be on the National Internship programme operated by the Department of Social Protection and 5,900 places under the Springboard programme operated by the Department of Education & Skills.
“However, under Dáil questioning, the Minister has now acknowledged that the Internship Programme announced in the Jobs Initiative will actually replace the Skills Development and Internship Programme which was announced in December 2010. These are not 5,000 additional places, but merely replacing the 5,000 places already announced last December and budgeted for in December’s budget!
“To make matters worse, the scheme announced last week offers less than the original internship scheme. Last December’s scheme was significantly more generous offering participants an ‘Upskilling bonus’ of €100 alongside their social welfare entitlements, but this has now been halved to €50 by the Fine Gael/Labour Government.
“Similarly, the 5,900 ‘additional’ places announced last week under Springboard, the new higher education fund, appear to be a repackaged version of the €20million multi annual Higher Education Labour Market Fund announced last December. The Higher Education Labour Market Fund was set up to enable unemployed people access part-time higher education opportunities from certificate to post graduate levels (Levels 6 to 9 on NQF) and €5million would be available in 2011. In response to a parliamentary question on whether the Labour Market Fund is still in operation, the Minister instead detailed the Springboard programme providing the exact same details. This merely highlights that it is the same programme but with a new name.
“In effect, the Government has overstated the provision of new training places by more than 50%. It has taken a full week for the Minister to provide clarity on these training measures and to reveal the real number of new training places. To borrow the words of Michael Noonan, I have a concern that Minister Quinn’s approach to training is more about the “public relation add-ons” than the substance. By overstating the facts to this degree, the Minister has undermined confidence in what is a welcome extension of the previous scheme” concluded Deputy Smith.