Seán Ó Foghlú (right), Secretary General Department of Education and Skills, appearing:
Deputy John Deasy (extract): I would like to pick up on the point Mr. Ó Foghlú just made about engagement on the ground. He said a couple of times that this area is reviewed constantly and that the Department has learned a great deal since the initial approaches. I suppose I am trying to get a picture of what is happening with regard to TalkTalk. Can Mr. Ó Foghlú give the committee an idea of what exactly the Department has changed? What has it learned about the EGF as it has evolved, when it comes to these companies? I am asking with particular reference to the Department's involvement with the TalkTalk workers.
Mr. Ó Foghlú: The TalkTalk programme came at a separate time from all the other programmes. We were really in a learning process when the first three come together. We were challenged by that. The TalkTalk programme came along after we had completed a review process. We knew that engagement with the local workers, the local community and the FÁS co-ordination unit on the ground needed to take place at an early a stage as possible. We provided money upfront on a national basis outside of our national contribution to the EGF. The specific design elements of the TalkTalk programme included the provision of job-focused private training, arranged through Skillnets, and the EGF course contribution. We were providing grants to pay for fees, but we have now broadened that out to defray expenses relating to mobility, accommodation, course equipment and materials. There has been a high level of ministerial engagement as well.
Deputy Deasy: According to figures I have seen, the level of participation in the measures is 62% in the case of TalkTalk, 55% in the case of Dell, 57% in the case of Waterford Crystal and 50% in the case of SR Technics. There is an increase in the case of TalkTalk, but it is not massive. Can Mr. Ó Foghlú explain the factors that apply to the 38% of TalkTalk workers who do not get involved in, engage with or participate in the measures? As he said earlier, many of them went into additional employment. He has explained why the participation level cannot reach 90% or 100%. Can he outline why it is just 62%?
Mr. Ó Foghlú: We hope to seek to increase that figure. In the past couple of weeks, we have managed to increase the number of participants from 362 to 390.