Ask Brian: I left school early, but I want to boost my skills. What are my options?
Your local Education and Training Board is a great place to get advice on what’s available
If you wish to apply for a specific course, your informal learning over your lifetime will be given due recognition within the adult education system. Photo: iStock
Question: I’m 35 years of age and left school after my Junior Cert. I would love to re-enter the education system but don’t know where to start. I am a lone parent with two young children and work irregular hours in a supermarket. Is there a route that could suit someone like me?
Answer: Education is a lifelong journey. Although you left the school system almost 20 years ago, your education has continued through the various experiences of life, including motherhood and working in a range of jobs.
The most important factor now is realising that re-engaging with the education system can assist you in acquiring a basket of new skills which will enable you to move to more challenging and better paid employment.
Your Junior Cert equates to level three on the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ), so you might want to start a further education course at level four where you can further develop generic academic skills but with a greater emphasis on independent learning.
Most modules at this level place a greater emphasis on continuous assessment rather than a final exam.
Level five major awards tend to focus on specific career areas such as multimedia, childcare, engineering technology or healthcare support.
They can also be used as an alternative to the Leaving Cert to access some higher education courses through the CAO system.
There are many options available through the further education and training services located within Education and Training Boards (ETB) and through access programmes in universities and institutes of technology.
Your local ETB is a good starting point. They have specific services dedicated to providing adult education and career guidance to those looking to re-enter the education system.
If you wish to apply for a specific course, your informal learning over your lifetime will be given due recognition within the adult education system. This can either happen through the course interview process or through formal “recognition of prior learning”.
Before you decide on what you want to do, there are a number of questions your regional adult education guidance service will help you reflect on.
What level of the NFQ best matches your current skills and level of academic challenge required? What general career areas would you like to pursue? Have you a specific time-scale in mind for your course? Would you like to study on a full-time / part-time / blended or online basis? What financial and childcare supports are available to you on your learning journey?
Once you have identified your goals and career path through a guidance interview, interest and aptitude tests, the regional adult education guidance service will help you to select the course that best suits you.
Over time, you will find your confidence growing and you may consider entering third-level system . The key decision is to act now.