TRAINING FEES WAIVED Thousands of builders and trades people could be entitled to hundreds of euros in refunds from training courses from Solas

By Adam Higgins and Mark May9th March 2019, 8:30 amUpdated: 8th March 2019, 11:16 pm

People who have taken Solas courses could be owed refunds

THOUSANDS of builders and trades people could be due refunds for training courses from Solas, the Irish Sun can reveal.

The State training agency — formerly FAS — has admitted a potential fee waiver for unemployed punters and medical card holders was not flagged up on their website.

Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice, who has raised the issue in the Dail, told the Irish Sun: “My understanding is that builders will be able to apply for a refund for the waiver fee.

“People who were getting unemployment benefits and went to do these courses should have paid less because of these waivers.”

Fitzmaurice added: “Builders who had been on unemployment and did a CSCS course should get in touch with Solas to see if they’re eligible for this refund.”

Builders or tradespeople who want to up-skill can complete Constructions Skills Certification Scheme courses in order to work with scaffolding, cranes, diggers and other speciality tools.

Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice

For example, a one-day forklift refresher course costs €260, a one-day excavator course costs €450 and a three-day crane co-ordinator course will set someone back €895.

Some €40 of the course fees is used to cover a charge from Quality and Qualifications Ireland for a certificate.

However, people who are unemployed or in receipt of a medical card are entitled to a waiver for this fee — which ­participants of courses were never made aware of.

Solas has recently updated its website in order to allow participants to download the application form for the Quality and Qualifications waiver.

Minister for Education and Skills John Halligan

However, thousands of workers, who have completed the courses over the past decade while in receipt of unemployment benefits, could now be entitled to a refund of their €40 certificate fee.

Often workers will go through a number of these courses, so some people could be entitled to hundreds of euros in refunds. It is understood that the fee waiver relates to courses taken since 2008.

Between 2014 and 2017, over 43,000 certificates were handed out by the QQI relating to CSCS courses. So potential payouts could run into the millions.

In response to a Parliamentary Question, Minister of State for Training and Skills John Halligan confirmed that punters could be owed money.

Halligan said that anybody eligible for a waiver should apply to their Approved Training Organisation.

The Minister added: “Any persons who believe that they are eligible to a waiver in respect of QQI certification fees already paid are advised to submit a waiver fee request to the Solas Construction Services Unit, giving evidence of unemployment/medical card details at the time.”

Fitzmaurice had also asked Halligan why Solas and QQI were continuing to “pass the responsibility” of eligible people applying for a waiver to the certification fees “from one to the other”.

A spokeswoman for the QQI explained: “QQI has no direct ­relationship with individual learners, it does not charge fees to individual learners nor does it receive fees from individual ­learners.”

The spokeswoman added that those eligible should apply directly to Solas for a refund