The vacant third-level course places should be filled by factory workers made redundant in Donegal and Louth, it was claimed today.
The closure of the American pharmaceutical firm Hospira will leave 560 people without work in Donegal town, while 250 people will be made redundant at the Quantum Corporation electronics factory in Dundalk.
Labour Senator Joanna Tuffy said the workers should be offered the vacant course places in their local colleges, Letterkenny Institute of Technology and Dundalk Institute of Technology.
“They have hundreds of vacant places and even though they’re on the Central Applications Office (CAO), they’re not going to fill all of them. I am now calling on the two institutes to make an imaginative responses to the manufacturing jobs crisis in their regions,” she said.
The Dublin Mid West senator said she had written to the Its urging them to get the Hospira and Quantum workers to take up the places as part-time students.
According to the CAO, Letterkenny IT has vacancies in 14 courses, including business studies, legal studies, quantity surveying and computing. Dundalk IT has vacancies in 12 courses including food science, public relations and engineering.
Ms Tuffy, who previously worked a college registrar with Dublin Institute of Technology, said she believed it would be realistic for workers to take up the places.
“It’s worth a try. The people can go in and take the same courses as other students, just with less hours and they can build up credits gradually.”
She added: “Everybody says the way the economy of Ireland is going, our jobs are going to be highly skilled and knowledge-based. If we want to get work for people who are losing jobs in manufacturing, we need to give them these skills.”
Hospira said it would be moving operations to cheaper sites in the Caribbean and blamed expensive manufacturing and labour costs and the need to improve profits. The plant, which makes medical devices, will close in 18 months while a separate facility in Sligo is to remain open.
Quantum Corporation is to shut down in Dundalk in the the middle of next year and has told workers that it is outsourcing its repair operations, most likely to eastern Europe, to cut costs.
The registrar of Letterkenny IT, Danny Brennan, said the Donegal area was still in shock after the huge job losses.
He said the college would be very pleased to accommodate anyone who wanted to apply.
“But I think the the number of people who would take that up would be fairly small. Given that there’s an 18-month period before the factory closes the door, I think our strategy is going to be to work with development agencies to see if we can put specific training programmes in place for people.”
Letterkenny IT has run training courses in the past for workers made redundant at the Fruit of the Loom clothing factories in Donegal.