COURSES for adults should have been given the same protection as school funding in the budget, according to the body representing city and county Vocational Education Committees (VECs).
While pupil-teacher ratios have not increased, school budgets avoided cuts and many grants have been restored at primary and second level, the Irish Vocational Education Association (IVEA) said not enough was done to provide for people needing vital training.
“It appears that Post Leaving Certificate (PLC) courses are not being included in the 26,000 extra training places announced in the budget, even though we were hoping there would be a cap on the 31,500 places currently allowed by funding,” said IVEA general secretary Michael Moriarty. “These courses are all over-subscribed and are perfectly equipped to meet the training needs of job seekers and young people looking for new skills.”
While the PLC sector gained 1,500 places this year, Mr Moriarty complained that 500 places under the Back to Education programme axed this year are not being restored, and that 300 places are being cut from training centres for adult Travellers. While it has been Department of Education policy for some time to merge those places into the general adult education system, the IVEA said this should only be done when the overall system has capacity for extra student numbers.
Many of the additional training places are going to FÁS courses of 10 and 20 weeks, but the training agency will also lose out on funding for upskilling workers and offering its trainees part-time third level places.
The national adult learning organisation, AONTAS, welcomed the €136 million being set aside for training, but warned short-term courses which lead to dead ends will only prolong frustration that goes with unemployment. It also claimed changes to social welfare allowances, combined with cuts to student support grants, will make a third level education financially unaffordable again for many adults.
Department of Education figures show that almost 20,000 students who it expects will qualify for support had not yet received a first payment up to three weeks ago.
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