Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Government's Springboard Initiative: Learning to Mix Cocktails Does Not Count as Reskilling

The Irish Independent published a supplement yesterday called Springboard. It’s about getting people back to work; Springboard is described in the supplement as “the new initiative aimed at helping those who have lost their jobs to upskill and improve their chances of getting back to work again.”

Upskilling is a very necessary thing, as the skill base of Ireland’s workforce does not match the hiring needs of the market. And as Kathleen Donnelly, the Indo’s Education Editor rightly points out, qualifications are the single best protection against unemployment.

So you can imagine your regular correspondent’s disappointment and horror when a little research revealed the whole Springboard project to be an exercise in lost opportunities, waste, window dressing and despair.

People who want to reskill are encouraged to visit a website called by the Independent supplement. According to its own about us page, “ is part of the HEA Strategic Innovation Fund project: Flexible Learning. This project represents 14 institutes of technology including DIT.”

Spidey senses should already be tingling at the clumsy prose in both those sentences. But reader, gentle reader, remove yourself for potential sources of self harm; you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

A cursory search of what’s on offer unearthed a gem, a twenty-four carat gem from DIT: they’re offering a course in Advanced Cocktail Making. Not regular now; sure any eejit could do that. This is advanced cocktail making.

You can’t just walk in off the street and do it. Oh no. “Learners should also have successfully completed the Continuing Professional Development Programme in Cocktail Making TFBS 1021 or equivalent qualification.”

How much does this course in Advanced Cocktail Making cost? Why, it costs €650. And what qualification do you get? (You know, this is my favourite bit. Out of all of this, this is my favourite).

Completion of DIT’s Advanced Cocktail Making course gets you a Certificate in Continuing Professional Development, which scores an eight on the National Framework of Qualifications. The same as an Honours Bachelor Degree or a H Dip. So, reading left to right, we have the guy with the B Comm who’s running a business, every educator in Ireland and Tom Cruise in the 1988 movie Cocktail, all on the same training and skill level.

Is this a freak result, as can happen? So what if a guy who’s working in the hospitality industry – about the only indigenous industry we have – wants to egg his pudding a biteen? What else is an offer at DIT?

I’m so glad you asked. DIT will charge you €670 for a course in Advanced Wine Studies. You have to have taken Wine Studies regular first, of course, before your brain is able for “deepening the knowledge of the matching of food and wine in terms of taste, quality and price.” Again, you can’t just walk in off the street.

To say you couldn’t make it up is a cliché. But my Lord and my God, you couldn’t make this stuff up. And more pertinently, why would you want to? Aren’t things bad enough as they are?

The mission statement for Springboard on page 4 of the supplement says its purpose is to develop employability skills. You can paint An Spailpín blue and call him a smurf if doing courses in Advanced Cocktail Making or Advanced Wine Studies makes anyone more employable in Ireland, 2011.

One hit, one, from a search for German when the EU has never been more important. Carlow IT will charge you €300 to do a course that will get you a Certificate in German that scores a six on the National Framework of Qualifications, one higher than the Leaving Cert.

They’re running course that will give you better German than five intense years of the Leaving Cert? That’s not very easy to believe. Not least as you don’t have to the primer course, as you do in Advanced Cocktail Making or Advanced Wine Studies. For German you can just walk in off the street, because the National Framework of Qualifications presumably judges it an easier skill to pick up than mixing a gimlet or slugging a bottle of Blue Nun.

If a man were a cynic, he'd think the National Framework of Qualifications is a bit of bloody joke.

Do a search for “cloud,” as courses on cloud computing are all over the course lists in the centre pages of the Indo supplement. Nothing.

Go to the IT, Tallaght site, which lists cloud computing courses in the supplement, and do a local search there. Nothing.

Don’t click the Gaeilge link in the top nav. It’ll only make you sad.

Page four of the supplement tells us that “Springboard is a government initiative managed by the HEA on behalf the Department of Education and Skills.” And that part does make sense.

Because one worthless public body on its own couldn’t make as big a balls of something as this. It’s only by combining their resources that they could make a pig’s ear of such monstrosity that it wouldn’t surprise me if it were visible from space or had its own gravity.

Yes we can? Nein, wir können nicht, actually. We really, really can’t. God help the country. Run while you still can.