Further Education resources: A glossary and full list

New apprenticeships in a range of industries, supports for students with disadvantaged backgrounds and back to education allowances

Access: Significant social inequalities continue to exist in Ireland when it comes to access to higher education and, for all the talk of the Leaving Certificate being “fair” to students, it’s never been fair for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. The gap is evident among school-leavers or those who are over 23 as well as among students with disabilities who face additional hurdles getting into college. A number of third-level access offices run access programmes, providing additional educational, emotional and financial supports to students. See AccessCollege.ie for more details

Apprenticeships: Earn while you learn. On an apprenticeship, you’ll pick up a qualification between level five and 10 while training on the job and learning online, in-person or both. Apprenticeships cover the more traditional, familiar range of trades such as motor mechanics, plumbing, stonemasonry and carpentry, but newer apprenticeships include auctioneering, recruitment and ICT. Arranged by industry sector, the Apprenticeship.ie directory has detailed information on each of the national apprenticeship programmes available in Ireland. Almost 70 apprenticeship programmes are currently available. See Apprenticeship.ie for more details.

Back to Education Allowance/ Back to Education Initiative: People with disabilities, carers and those in receipt of certain social protection benefits may qualify for the BTEA, allowing them to return to further or higher education without losing their benefit. The BTEI, meanwhile, opens up the possibility of part-time further education for people who left school with few or no formal qualifications, or low literacy levels, and who are now trying to combine learning with family and work commitments. Contact your local ETB for more details.

Community education: Adult learning in community settings around Ireland, focused on the needs of learners who are often involved in the design of the programme.


FetchCourses.ie: A searchable database of FET courses from Solas.

Further education and training: PLCs, apprenticeships, traineeships and any education outside the primary, standard secondary and third-level colleges, adult education, and Youthreach all fall under the remit of FET.

Grants: Returning to education can be expensive, but your local ETB or, at third-level, student support office, can direct you to sources of funding. See also AccessCollege.ie.

Interest courses: Committing to a full or part-time return to education — with all the exams and assessment it entails — can be daunting. But adult education centres, community colleges and some third-level institutions offer a diverse selection of interest-based evening or day courses, which can be stimulating in their own right or help you test the waters for a return to education. At University College Dublin’s Access and Lifelong Learning, for instance, interest courses include short, online taster talks on topics from the Cuban missile crisis to the marvels and mysteries of maths and contemporary Irish literature, while the autumn programme includes Italian for beginners, introduction to impressionism, conflict resolution, t’ai chi, and life writing and memoir.

National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ): Courses accredited by Quality and Qualifications Ireland — the gold standard in Ireland and an internationally recognised award — ranging from level one and two (certificate) to level three (Junior Cert), levels four and five (Leaving Certificate), level six (advanced and higher certs), level seven (ordinary degree), level eight (higher degree), level nine (masters degree and postgraduate diploma) and level 10 (doctoral degrees). See nfq.qqi.ie for more information.

Post-Leaving Certificate: PLC courses run by education and training boards in colleges of further education around the country. Each year somewhere between 20,000 and 25,000 people undertake a PLC course. Typically lasting a year or two in duration, PLC courses prepare students for employment through a mix of practical work, academic work and work experience as well being a stepping stone to third-level for others. Fetchcourses.ie

Qualifax.ie: A one-stop source of information for all courses across higher, further and adult education.

SmartChoices.ie: Everything you need to know about further education and training.

Solas: The state agency was established in 2013 and replaced the former agency FÁS. SOLAS (an tSeirbhís Oideachais Leanúnaigh agus Scileanna) was founded under the Further Education and Training Act, as an agency of the Department of Further and Higher Education. The agency is tasked with building a world class Further Education and Training (FET) sector and it oversees some €800 million of funding each year. Most of this is directed towards ETB further education and training provision directly, and through a network of education and training providers. solas.ie

Traineeship: Employment-focused courses, leading to a level four to six NFQ qualification, preparing students for jobs in areas suffering from skills shortages. Courses are delivered via classroom or online learning plus at least 30 per cent on the job training. solas.ie