Foras Áiseanna Saothair
|Executive Agency overview|
|Jurisdiction||Republic of Ireland|
|Parent department||Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation|
An Foras Áiseanna Saothair (Irish pronunciation: [ən̪ˠ ˈfˠɔrˠəsˠ ˈaːʃʲən̪ˠə ˈsˠiːhəɾʲ]), referred to in English as the Training and Employment Authority and commonly known as FÁS (Irish pronunciation: [faːs]), was a state agency in Ireland with responsibility for assisting those seeking employment. It was established in January 1988 under the Labour Services Act, 1987 and was run by a board appointed by the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, composed of employer and trade union representatives.
The authority, whose Irish language name literally translates as "the Labour Facilities Foundation", was the successor to An Chomhairle Oiliúna ("the training council", commonly referred to as AnCO), the National Manpower Service and the Youth Employment Agency. The Irish word fás formed by the acronym means "growth", and the authority was created in 1980s Ireland during the long economic downturn of the time.
The authority ran a number of JobCentres in Ireland to facilitate those seeking employment, however it had occasionally been criticised, not least for the perception that it is simply a scheme to remove people from unemployment statistics – it had also been criticised for the expense of running it at almost €1 billion per annum. The authority ran training courses in various fields, through regional centres, although some of this work was transferred to institutes of technology – including the apprenticeships in various fields that it regulated.
Apprenticeships regulated by FÁS include:
By tradition, the Director General of FÁS is a board member of Forfás. Brian Geoghegan (spouse of Mary Harney, Minister for Health and Children) retired as Chairman of FÁS at the end of 2005 and was replaced by Peter McLoone. There had been some controversy regarding Geoghegan's position when it emerged he was also a board member of IBEC, the employer's union of Ireland. IBEC have been critical of FÁS at times claiming, at various intervals, that some FÁS courses and schemes are a waste of money, taking potential employees off the live register who could otherwise be employed in mainstream positions. The fact that Geoghegan is married to Minister Mary Harney, who was formerly the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, led to some claims he had a conflict of interest.
In September 2008, the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Mary Coughlan announced that the Comptroller and Auditor General would undertake an investigation of FÁS expenditure in light of what she saw as the evident public disquiet on the issue. The annual budget for FÁS at the time was around €1 billion. In November 2008, The Dáil Public Accounts Committee (PAC) also began an investigation. However, it was information obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by journalist and Senator Shane Ross which he published in the Sunday Independent that brought the FÁS expenses scandal to a head.
The documents obtained by Senator Ross showed that some €643,000 had been spent over the course of four years on transatlantic travel promoting the agency's Science Challenge Programme. The expenses included items such as first class air fares, business class air fares and fares paid for by FÁS for spouses, rounds of golf as well as nail and beauty treatment. It also revealed that three Government ministers and two junior ministers had attended in that time for inconsequential reasons .
This revelation caused major controversy and pressure was brought to bear on FÁS Director General Roddy Molloy to resign, although Taoiseach Brian Cowen spoke in support of Molloy both publicly and in the Dáil. Molloy went so far as to appear on the Pat Kenny Show on RTÉ Radio 1 to defend the expenses incurred.
However, under ever increasing pressure, Molloy resigned as Director General on 25 November 2008.
In July 2011 the Minister for Education and Skills announced that FÁS would be replaced by a new agency, named SOLAS, that would have responsibility for all public funding of further education and training. The training function of FÁS was absorbed into the restructured local Vocational Education Committees which were retitled Education and Training Boards in July 2013.
- In the spotlight: How spending saga unfolded
- "Fás board to step down as Coughlan accused of failing to act". The Irish Times. 14 September 2009.
- Special Report 73: Internal Control and Governance in FÁS, January 2010
- 27 July, 2011 – New further education and training authority, SOLAS, launched by Minister Quinn- Government agrees to wind down FÁS
- "01 July, 2013– Education and Training Boards replace VECs". Department of Education and Skills. Retrieved 3 July 2013.