Engagement with Stakeholders and Other Bodies

Relationships with Key Stakeholders

SOLAS

SOLAS is responsible for the funding of a wide range of FET programmes within the sixteen ETBs; as such, it is one of LOETB’s key stakeholders. LOETB submits an annual service plan to SOLAS, which includes performance targets, such as inputs, outputs, certification, and reports on these targets to SOLAS three times a year through the FARR database. The ETB provides administrative support staff, as well as the support of the QA Manager, to aid centres reporting to SOLAS through FARR. In addition, there is a financial reporting process to SOLAS that LOETB engages in. SOLAS have now begun to discuss introducing a strategic dialogue process with all ETBs, following the participation of three ETBs, including LOETB, in the Strategic Expectations Pilot Initiative.

SOLAS has statutory responsibility for craft apprenticeships (as coordinating provider). Two Senior Training Advisors are in place in LOETB who are authorised officers acting on behalf of SOLAS to approve the companies based in Laois and Offaly in which apprentices shall be employed.

QQI

LOETB is a legacy provider for QQI, currently operating under two QA agreements, and working towards re-engagement with QQI, and this executive self-evaluation report represents a first step in that process. In addition to delivering QQI certification across its centres, in which learners achieved 3,978 awards in 2016, LOETB engages closely with QQI in a number of working groups and pilot projects, such as a validation working group.

Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (DEASP)

The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (DEASP) and its Intreo offices are strategic partners for LOETB in its efforts to provide appropriate education and training opportunities for the individuals who are out of the labour market, and is the primary referral agency for training programmes. An interagency agreement between LOETB and the DEASP is in place to manage this relationship.

Employers

Engagement with employers is a critical element in LOETB’s FET services, if these services are to meet the priorities set out in the FET strategy and ensure that programmes and courses are relevant to the needs of local business and industry. A number of mechanisms and avenues for engagements with employers exist across FET services, with individual centres and staff within an area generally having built up good informal contacts, as well formal relationships, with employers. Some staff within the training services have, as part of their responsibilities, the necessity to engage with employers, including the Senior Training Advisors for Apprenticeship.

LOETB recently established the position of Services to Employers Officer. The role of the Services to Employers Officer is to link with employers to ensure that LOETB programmes meet labour market requirements of the local and national economy and that LOETB graduates possess the relevant level and quality of ‘job ready’ skills that employers need. A key feature of the work of the Services to Employers Officer is Workforce Development, providing Education and Training programmes for those in employment, to upgrade or enhance their skills in their current job, or prepare them for new roles.

LOETB liaises with a number of industry representative groups including the Construction Industry Federation, Irish Restaurants Association, Irish Hotels Federation, Health Service Executive, IBEC, IDA and Enterprise Ireland.

Regional Skills Forum

LOETB is represented on the Midlands Regional Skills Forum. This forum provides an opportunity for the ETB, with other bodies and agencies, including Athlone Institute of Technology, Longford and Westmeath Education and Training Board, Skillnets, Enterprise Ireland, IDA Ireland, County Councils, local LEOs, Intreo (DEASP), Fáilte Ireland, IBEC, to engage in structured dialogue between enterprise sectors and education and training providers focused on identifying skills requirements and building customised solutions responsive to regional business needs.

Second Providers

Contracted Training

Contracted training is a procured service to deliver training within Laois and Offaly. A new tendering process developed by the Office of Government Procurement and SOLAS has almost been completed, and successful contractors who win the tender, may work with LOETB training services for up to four years. When delivering training on behalf of LOETB, they do so under LOETB’s QA agreement for training services (i.e. the TQAS). The internal verification process is undertaken by the contracted trainer, while the QA Officer organises the EA from the EA panel. A certification audit is conducted by the QA Office prior to requesting certification. Results are uploaded to QQI by the QA Officer via the RCCRS. Contracted training providers are monitored on a monthly basis by the Contracted Training Officer, and there is a traffic light system in place to monitor underperforming contractors.

Community Training Providers

Community Training provides training within the community for people who are economically or educationally disadvantaged. This is a granted service for programmes delivered on behalf of ETBs; internal verification is undertaken by the provider, all results are reviewed by the QA Officer, and all certificates are requested through the QA Department. Training is provided across the three different programme types outlined below:

Community Training Centre (CTC)

CTCs provide second chance education and training for early school leavers, aged 16–21 years. They are operated by the Boards of independent companies, funded by LOETB through a service level agreement and with specified programme deliverables and outcomes identified for the services. CTCs are required to adhere to LOETB Quality Assurance policies and procedures and are monitored on a regular basis by training services staff. There is one CTC operating within the Laois Offaly area, in Tullamore.

Local Training Initiatives (LTIs)

LTIs provide vocational training opportunities, learning supports and project-based learning to marginalised learners, aged 16-35 years with low level education, who have been referred by the DEASP. They are delivered through training services by sponsoring and coordinating community-based organisations. The proposal for an LTI emanates from the sponsoring group in response to a need identified at local level. Through a service contract with LOETB, LTI sponsors are provided with the funding to deliver a response to the specific training needs within their locality. LTIs are required to adhere to LOETB Quality Assurance policies and procedures and are monitored on a regular basis by training services staff.

Specialist Training Providers

Specialist Training Providers, such as the National Learning Network, address the identified training needs of people with disabilities who are experiencing exclusion and labour market disadvantage.

Other Community Education Providers

The Community Education strand of the Further Education service maintains a large network of relationships with community development groups and other community providers, through which the Further Education service delivers a wide range of courses, both certified and uncertified. Responsibility for these programmes lies with the Community Education Facilitator, who reports to the Further Education Manager. Certified courses are, for the most part, included in the IV/EA/RAP processes of the local Further Education and Training Centres. However, some legacy issues arising out of the differing QA agreements are yet to be resolved.

Third Level Providers

Progression to further studies is a targeted outcome for many LOETB programmes and participants. LOETB has a number of formal and informal arrangements and agreements in place to provide additional progression opportunities for learners into a large number of third level institutions, including Athlone IT and IT Carlow.

Irish Prison Service

LOETB operates the Education Centres in Midlands and Portlaoise Prisons, in collaboration with the Irish Prison Service. LOETB was involved with the IPS and other ETBs in the development of a three-year joint education strategy for the Prison Service for the 2016-2018 period. Participation on education and training courses is voluntary for inmates. A significant number of learners engage on certified programmes up to Level 6.

 

Further Education and Training Cooperation Hours

The Department of Education and Skills has, for a significant period of time, allocated additional teaching resources to LOETB under what is commonly termed the ‘Cooperation Hours’ scheme, to provide teaching services to other institutions and bodies as part of the remit of the ETB to provide for continuing education in their areas. Cooperation hours are allocated to a variety of services and bodies by LOETB including:

  • Community Training Centres
  • Disability Services
  • Youth Services
  • Language Support for Refugees

The rationale and criteria for awarding these hours are largely based on historical decisions. Activity under these arrangements varies from fully uncertified/unaccredited to programmes leading to full awards at levels 1-5 on the NFQ. LOETB has identified a requirement for additional monitoring of activity under these arrangements and has commenced introducing the necessary supports.

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