Updates from November 2023 Steering Group meeting
This strategy has set out a strong sense of the potential of FET if it continues along a pathway of integration, reducing programme silos and structures, and developing much clearer learning pathways into, within and from FET. However, there is strong consensus that capital infrastructure is both a barrier and an enabler to fully realising this ambition. As noted earlier, FET capital stock is of variable quality and is characterised by small scale dispersed facilities, despite some effort to consolidate provision in particular locations within integrated FET centres. The first important step will be to fully understand the nature, purpose, quality and investment requirements across all capital infrastructure. SOLAS will, therefore, commence a full review with ETBs to construct a detailed database of FET buildings, their purpose, size and condition, provision type, numbers of learners and staff, and ownership details.
In November Minister Harris announced the Strategic Infrastructure Upgrade Funding for projects for MSLETB at Quay St, Sligo and for DETB at Stranolar, Finn Valley FET Centre, as well as opening the Letterkenny, Port Road state-of-the-art FET centre, which is home to one of six Digital Hubs provided by Donegal ETB in the county which provide technology-enhanced learning support to staff and students.
Additionally, the Minister announced over €5.4m in Additional Devolved Capital Grants to fund Small-Scale Energy Retrofit, Health & Safety, and Learner Environment improvements in FET premises across the country.
In November the official opening of Wexford College of FET occurred and is one of the first fully integrated FET College of the Future projects.
Capital projects are progressing with design teams appointed for the majority of the first 13 announced SIUF projects. Briefings with each Design Team/ETB have commenced.
Digital Transformation of FET Good progress has been made in recent years to build capability in technology enhanced learning (TEL) across FET, focusing on using technology in pedagogical approaches to teaching and learning, and using tech-led approaches to the provision of education and training. This work is important, but if FET is to maintain its relevance, it must adopt a more holistic approach to how it will embrace and deploy technology over the next five years. Every other system is planning for digital transformation, and FET must be no exception.
The strategic review of the draft Digital Learning Framework for FET has been completed. The Digital Learning Advisory and eCollege Steering Groups will proceed with the Framework in 2024.
One of the cornerstones for diversification of eCollege, the creation of a Framework of Suppliers for the Provision of eCollege Courses and Associated Services has been completed, supporting the aims of extending the reach, range and quality of eCollege provision.
The strategic actions identified within the SOLAS ICT priorities to modernise/digitise FET and SOLAS systems (Core HR, Apprenticeship, FETCHCOURSES innovation etc.) continue to be rolled out.
There have been further changes to facilitate Programme Harmonisation implemented on PLSS.
SAP to SUN project underway to facilitate the migration of 15 ETBs to SUN by end of 2024.
Multi-factor authentication and user review underway on PLSS which when complete will greatly enhance the security of the system and learner data.
An update to construction courses website has been made to improve the user experience.
Functionality to allow advertising of instructor vacancies on apprenticeship website implemented.
LEARNER AND PERFORMANCE
Learner and Performance Centred An essential focus of this strategy is to ensure that we develop a system that is learner-centred and performance-centred. The FET learner base is incredibly diverse, and FET must encourage and reflect this diversity in the way in which it supports learners and offers them clear pathways and outcomes over the next five years. The work on strategic performance agreements and learner voice has provided a strong platform to further enhance a learner-centred and performance approach.
Systems Funding and Performance - draft parameters and requirements documents have been issued to ETBs to inform funding requirements going forward.
The National Skills Bulletin 2023 has now been published on the SOLAS website. It will be formally launched in December.
STAFFING CAPABILITIES AND STRUCTURES
Staffing, Capabilities and Structures The passion and expertise of FET practitioners, and their commitment to putting learners at the heart of everything they do, is one of the great strengths of the system. While some progress has been made on the organisational design of FET within ETBs (most notably with the appointments of Directors of FET which have given it a real drive and strategic focus), there remain numerous legacy design matters that need to be resolved. As we enter a new phase of development for FET, these matters need to be addressed along with a clear sense of how ETB staffing and structures need to evolve to deliver on the Future FET goals set out in this strategy and realise the full potential of the system.
There has been on-going engagement with ESBS to develop standard monthly reports to capture staff numbers and costs. Delays have occurred due to ESBS needing to reexamine reports and the need to replace software. Data sharing agreements also being reviewed.
Further engagement with DFHERIS on new Staff reporting Structure.
Work is ongoing with regard to ETB planning for 2024 based on the new funding model. Funding requirements and associated templates being finalised for consultation with ETBs. The Operational Guidelines Working Group has been established and has met twice.