Apprenticeship a better route for some students, says Minister

Other study routes are equally valid career paths, says Mary Mitchell O’Connor

Minister of State for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O’Connor (second left) says some third-level students may be more suited to alternatives study paths. Also pictured at the launch of Education Matters, Ireland’s yearbook of education, edited by Irish Times careers analyst Brian Mooney, were Prof Maurice Manning, chancellor NUI; Phyllis Mitchell (centre), publisher; Mr Mooney,  and Dr Attracta Halpin, NUI registrar.

Minister of State for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O’Connor (second left) says some third-level students may be more suited to alternatives study paths. Also pictured at the launch of Education Matters, Ireland’s yearbook of education, edited by Irish Times careers analyst Brian Mooney, were Prof Maurice Manning, chancellor NUI; Phyllis Mitchell (centre), publisher; Mr Mooney, and Dr Attracta Halpin, NUI registrar.

 

Some students who enter third-level may be more suited to alternatives such as apprenticeships, according to Minister of State for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O’Connor.

She said: “We must always remember there is more than one way of learning, and some students may be more suited to apprenticeships or to starting their third-level journey in an institute of further education.”

She was speaking at the launch of Education Matters: Ireland’s Yearbook of Education, edited by Irish Times careers analyst Brian Mooney. The book, published by Phyllis Mitchell, is being made free to access online (www.educationmatters.ie) for the first time.

While Ireland has the highest rate of third-level participation in Europe, the proportion of school-leavers accessing apprenticeships is particularly low.

Drop-out rates in some areas of higher education – especially in level six (certificate) and seven (ordinary degree) courses – are high, with up to half of students failing to progress to second year in some courses.

Ms Mitchell O’Connor said it was vital to remind students that there is “a route for all students”, and she intended to consider more solutions to ease pathways between sectors of education.

She added that much greater efforts were needed to help students make the transition from secondary school to higher or further education.

‘Huge gap’

“There is a huge gap between the culture and ethos of our second and third level institutions,” she said.

“Students often experienced difficulty when they move from pastoral care of second-level to the self-management style of third level.”

Speaking at the same event, Dr Anne Looney, executive dean at Dublin City University’s institute of education, noted the striking gap in progression to third level between affluent and deprived areas.

In addition to encouraging greater access to higher education in poorer areas, she said we should be worried by the fact almost all students in affluent areas go to university.

“These students are in schools and communities where the assumption, in the age of the creators, [is] that you move straight into university and, perhaps, don’t consider apprenticeships or further education as equally valid ways of learning and succeeding. They might actually deliver for us a more diverse , creative, and problem-solving population.”

She added: “We often worry about getting more people into college - we don’t always consider what is the right route.”