CAO applications on course to match last year’s record high

Careers experts say points increases likely in construction and engineering courses

Students sitting the Leaving Cert this year will be the first to avail of a new grading system for students, aimed at easing some of the pressure on students and making access to college fairer.  Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Students sitting the Leaving Cert this year will be the first to avail of a new grading system for students, aimed at easing some of the pressure on students and making access to college fairer. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

 

The number of college applicants this year is on course to match last year’s record high, new figures show.

Latest figures show 76,213 applicants had registered with the CAO by Wednesday evening’s deadline.

This compares with 76,227 at the same point last year, 74,499 in 2015 and 73,063 in 2014.

Careers experts say points increases are likely among courses linked to rapidly growing sectors of the economy such as construction, engineering and business.

Applications to many of these programmes fell dramatically during the economic downturn. Now that these sectors are growing, industry groups say there are not enough graduates to meet job vacancies.

This year’s CAO applications numbers are likely to rise to more than 80,000 over the coming months when late applicants are included. This special late application facility opens between March 6th and May 1st.

Provisional figures showing a breakdown in the demand for course types will be available later this year.

Almost 60 per cent of school-leavers are now progressing on to higher education, one of the highest levels in the European Union.

Senior education figures, however, are keen for school-leavers to consider alternatives to higher education such as apprenticeships.

Plummeted

The number of people taking on apprenticeships plummeted during the recession, falling from about 29,000 to just over 5,700 in 2013.

Last week, the Government launched a new plan to make apprenticeships and traineeships an “attractive and respected” option for at least one in five school-leavers .

Minister for Education Richard Bruton said it is his ambition that 20 per cent of school-leavers would have the option of going into an apprenticeship or traineeship over the coming years.

The CAO, meanwhile, has pointed out that applicants still have plenty of opportunity to revise their course choices.

Most will use the free “change of mind” facility, which opens in May and closes on July 1st at 5.15pm.

However, a special “change of course choices” facility will become available online from next Monday until March 1st for those applying to certain restricted courses – which typically require a portfolio or interview – or if an applicant is a mature student. This costs €10.

Students sitting the Leaving Cert this year will be the first to avail of a new grading system for students, aimed at easing some of the pressure on students and making access to college fairer.

The old familiar grading system – A, B and C – is being replaced with a new system in which higher-level grades will run from H1 to H8 and ordinary grades from O1 to O8.

Instead of grades based on bands of 5 per cent (such as a B1 or B2) they will be based on bands of 10 per cent.