Single portal for CAO and further education options to open from next month

Service will help students look beyond ‘obsession’ with Leaving Cert points race

‘We live in a country for the last number of decades, there’s nearly been a bit of an obsession with the CAO and the points race,’ Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris said at the Irish Times Higher Options event. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times

‘We live in a country for the last number of decades, there’s nearly been a bit of an obsession with the CAO and the points race,’ Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris said at the Irish Times Higher Options event. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times

 

Students will be able to choose between university and further education courses through a single CAO portal for the first time from next month.

Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris said the new service will broaden the conversation around career and study options beyond our current “obsession” with higher education and the points race.

The portal – to be launched on November 5th – will give parity of esteem to all study options and allow students to apply directly for higher and further education courses. It will also include information on the growing number of apprenticeship options.

In a new change, students will receive offers for courses from both sectors on the same day in mid-August.

Mr Harris was speaking at the opening of Higher Options, the main information-gathering event for secondary school students exploring their career and study options. The event – which was broadcast online this year – is run by The Irish Times.

“When students log onto the CAO website from November 5 th, they won’t just see the traditional CAO options; they’ll also, for the first time ever, see education and training options – and lots of information and options on apprenticeships,” Mr Harris said.

“Why is that important? It will broaden the conversation. We live in a country for the last number of decades, there’s nearly been a bit of an obsession with the CAO and the points race.”

“Look, a lot of good things have come from university progression rates. But there are a lot of students listening in today and they might not yet be sure what exactly they want to do.

“And they might not be aware of all the options that are available to them. At the very minimum, this is going to really create a conversation.”

He added: “I think what people are going to find out in an awful lot of areas is that there are many, many ways to get to where you want to get to.”

‘Fully integrated’ system

Work is also being advanced to build a “fully integrated” further education and higher education system which will allow students to transfer seamlessly from one to the other.

It is part of a broader plan to enhance the status of the further education sector and create more diverse pathways for school leavers.

The number of apprenticeships on offer is also due to expand next year with 62 programmes across areas ranging from ICT and insurance to finance and logistics.

Dr Mary-Liz Trant, executive director for skills development in the further education and training authority Solas, said new apprenticeships span the range of qualifications all the way up to PhD level.

She said 22,500 students were currently completing apprenticeships and this is due to increase as more programmes come on-stream.