On the FAS track
There has been a lot said about FÁS in the last while.
For those who don’t know, FÁS is a state training agency in Ireland that is famous for spending public money on itself, and precious little on training.
I happen to know a little about the place as Frank, a very close friend of mine had some insight knowledge.
A few years ago, Frank heard there was an opening in FÁS for a temporary teacher, so he applied even though the job wasn’t advertised. He went for an interview and met Tom who was the teacher that Frank was supposed to be replacing. The interview apparently went very well, and Tom introduced Frank to Bill who was the head of the department. Bill proceeded to interview Frank and the upshot was that he got the job, on the spot. Frank was to replace Tom, whenever Tom was on leave.
Being a sensible sort of chap, Frank asked when he was supposed to start work. Bill looked at Tom, and Tom looked at Bill. “When do you want to take leave?” Bill asked Tom. “Next week?” replied Tom. “I could do with a couple of weeks.” And so it was settled. Frank was to start work the following week.
Monday dawned. Well, it didn’t actually as the classes started very early and Frank lived a long way from FÁS so he was up long before dawn, but that’s beside the point. Anyway, he arrived at FÁS and met Bill who was to show him around the place, and was to introduce him to the class who were already a few weeks into their course.
Everything went smoothly and Frank was in the middle of getting to know the class when who should walk into the class but Tom, the teacher he was supposed to replace. Tom had a little office at the back of the class, so at coffee break time, Frank had a quick word with Tom.
“Aren’t you supposed to be on leave?” asked Frank.
“I am on leave,” said Tom.
“Then what the fuck are you doing in this place?” asked Frank who was a little bewildered at this stage.
“It gives me a chance to catch up on some personal stuff,” replied Tom.
Tom apparently decided he needed a three week break, so for three weeks, Frank taught the class while Tom sat in his office playing games on his computer. Frank was a bit mystified by this, but he was earning in excess of €1,000 a week which was extremely generous for those times, and considerably more than Tom was earning, so he didn’t question things.
Everything went very well, and at the end of the three weeks, Frank said his farewells to the class, and that was that.
Or so he thought.
A month later, he got a call from Tom, asking if he would like to do another three weeks. Frank said he would indeed, and the whole process was repeated. For three more weeks, Frank taught the class on his handsome salary, while Tom played computer games in his office. It was quite apparent that Frank was taken on any time Tom just didn’t feel like teaching.
Frank worked for FÁS for several years. He did around twelve weeks a year, and on only one occasion did Tom actually go away. Frank actually found it quite strange teaching the class without Tom being present.
I don’t know how much Frank earned over the years, but it was a considerable sum. And when you consider that FÁS were paying Tom as well, and that the latter was turning up every day but just not teaching, it was quite a waste of money [not that Frank complained].
I’d find that an unbelievable story, but this *is* FÁS we’re talking about.
It is a little on the surreal side, but I can assure you it is all true.
I am amazed by this anecdote. It reflects bad on FÁS employment practice and on the attitude of the permanent teacher and his superiors. On a more general point I would like to add that a permanent pensionable schoolteacher informed me some years ago that several teachers in an Irish secondary school took turns throughout school terms to be ‘off sick’. Apparently their employment contracts said that they could be off sick without a doctor’s note for up to 4 days per month. On a rotation system the collaborating teachers might have stayed at home dossing (on full pay) for eight days per term.
I am dismayed by the revelations about expenses sprees enjoyed by the upper management in FÁS during the 1990s onwards. As one who benefited psychologically and professionally from FÁS training courses and a 12-month community employment scheme I feel badly let down as a citizen on reading about the cynicism of the upper echelons. I really feel there is a need for FÁS in times of recession. The community employment schemes have not always been fruitful (cleaning up old cemetries, for example, which were soon re-colonised by ivy and weeds) but some have, and many people who would have moped in their lonesome homes were given 2.5 days of remunerated activity to do per week, sometimes in lively company. I have experienced a few spells of unemployment during the past 15 years but because I am a graduate and enjoy reading books I have been able to fill in the time. I realize that people with no bookworm tendencies or other hobby interests suffer mentally and feel isolated from society. They can feel utterly unwanted and useless; all this in addition to trying to live on a welfare pittance, especially if they have dependents.
I think that FÁS needs to be radically shaken down but not abolished. The vocational education committees have their role in education, adult literacy and second chance schemes, but their bureaucracy and partial links to ‘establishment’ figures at local level make them unsuitable for organising the specialist training courses that FÁS training centres have successfully mounted. And I wouldn’t let the regional Institutes into this area either. The Institutes are too anxious to generate income from enrolling many students (look how they trawl for foreign students) and their staff are too preoccupied with professional prestige and certification.
I think FÁS has been anxious to get away from job creation in its determination to excel at practical training and retraining. So I recommend a state job creation agency that would work in tandem with FÁS at the grassroots.
Meanwhile the attitudes and practices that have crept into FÁS need to be trenchantly exposed and eradicated in order to win back lost credibility.
I remember going to see that lot in Bray some years ago when I was “between jobs”.
Bunch of useless wankers to a man (and one woman – if that’s appropriate).
What is Bills surname, I have the letter of application typed and CV drafted, just need to address it to the correct person.
By the way I’m not qualified to teach, but from the recent exposures here I dont think that will be much of a problem.
I know quite a bit about their advertising agency. They wasted unbelievable amounts of money on massive advertising campaigns for annual jobs fairs in Croke Park which weren’t needed at the time. And of course their mates in the GAA made loads of cash too.
It all boils down to a circle of friends, all Fianna Fáilers who basically divvied up the cash pot amongst themselves. The top guys in the agency were FF and their mates in Fás were also FF. They brought each other away on trips and out for dinners and drinks all the time. Golf outings were a big hit.
One of agencies in question also produced the literature, posters and ads for the 1997 election campaign for FF more or less free of charge and made people work overtime without pay. No wonder then that the Fás account came their way a few years later. Tender? My hole.
I really hope the EU investigation into Fás opens the lid on this country.
Gabby – Frank was stunned by the whole affair. He told me that he couldn’t understand a system that would pay an additional thousand a wee just so a teacher could take things easy on his job. Tom, the teacher did mutter something one year about Frank being more qualified than him, which was also a little strange. I would love to have been able to interview that teacher to answer a few of my own questions!
Mossy – The only thing I can say there is that my pal does know his stuff. As I said to Gabby, aparently he knew more about the course than the permanent teacher.
Lafsword – I have of course changed the names to protect the guilty. Hah! Chance of a bit of blackmailing I don’t want to share. Sorry.
Holemaster – I have heard a bit about the advertising runs that were done and paid for and then never used. It seems there is a sort of Fianna Fail attitude of “let’s spend the money, and fuck the punters”. I would say there are a lot more stories to be told there.
Bill, Frank and Tom. What about Bob ?
Fas are obviously shitting themselves about the EU investigating what happened to monies FAS received between 2000-2006. So much so that Fas have no applied for any EU funding since 2009 when the shite started to approach the fan on that story.
I believe there has recently been a two-day meeting in a hotel somewhere where Fas management have agreed that the appropriate crisis response is to change the name of the organisation and re-brand it.
All rise for a quick gallop through the national anthem. Unless thats been rebranded in the meantime also.
‘Rebranding’ FÁS just to divert public attention from its cynical past would be like how they renamed the sea polluting nuclear reactor at Windscale and now call it Sellafield. New name same beast.
I get a feeling that the recent financial history of FÁS is going to be a long running story.
TT – Bob is probably on permanent sick-leave [on full pay, of course].
Con & Gabby – Rebranding is an old trick [as Gabby says – Sellafield/Winscale is a classic example]. They have this strange idea that by changing a name or a logo, that we will suddenly forget all their misdemeanors and think they are a brand new company. Hah! Of course, changing a company name costs a fortune, as all stationary, signage, websites and enery other fucking thing has to be changed too.
Didn’t they rebrand ANCO to create FAS to begin with?
Lansdowne Road / Aviva Stadium
Just better hope that Preparation H don’t buy it ten years time.