Discover a world of choice with further education and training
Leaving Cert students may feel third level is their only route, but with so many options available in PLC, apprenticeships and traineeships, there’s a new world to explore
The CAO is often seen as the only route to take after school, but there are other options available and routes to future careers. Photograph: Getty Images
As Leaving Cert grades are published and CAO offers made, students can be left with a sense of disappointment if points required to enter a certain university course aren’t achieved. With a system that often favours straight to university, many forget that there are several other pathways that can lead to the same career result.
Solas is the state agency tasked with building the Further Education and Training (FET) sector. With 16 Education and Training boards, 25,000 courses and 339,000 beneficiaries nationwide, more people than ever are undertaking further education.
Maria Walshe, acting communications director at Solas, says Leaving Cert students sometimes don’t even realise the vast array of courses available to them outside of the CAO.
The CAO is often seen as the only route to take after school, but there are other options available and routes to future careers
“Around this time of year the scramble for Leaving Cert students is which third level course to choose as opposed to the different education routes there are and which one works best for them. However, students can reap huge benefits from different learning environments. The Further Education and Training sector offers a different learning experience such as smaller class sizes on a Post Leaving Certificate (PLC) course or learning on-the-job through apprenticeships and traineeships,” she says.
“The CAO is often seen as the only route to take after school, but there are other options available and routes to future careers. It’s about raising awareness of that among students and parents,” she adds.
Local and accessible
The beauty of FET courses is that they are very local and accessible to all. “Take Bray where I live for example, there alone we have the really successful Institute of Further Education, BIFE, and a training centre nearby in Loughlinstown,” Walshe points out. “There are so many courses dotted around the whole country to suit everyone.”
Three FET programmes of particular interest for second level students are Post Leaving Cert Courses (PLC), Apprenticeships and Traineeships.
PLC courses offer a myriad of subjects, with approximately 30,000 students entering PLC courses every year.
“They are designed for people who are looking to go directly into a job afterwards but also they have very high progression rates into higher level education, so you might have a student who is thinking about what they want to do, but may not be fully sure, and would like to try it out for a year,” Walshe explains.
“Other times a student may not have gotten the points they needed but can transition from a PLC directly into third level,” she says. Danay Berhane is a former FET student who had applied to train as a chef in a third level college. When he didn’t get the points needed he applied for a Professional Cookery course at the College of Commerce in Cork. When he finished that course, he progressed onto a Culinary Studies course in CIT. From there, his career really took off and he earned an internship in the world-famous Parisian hotel and restaurant Le Bristol; a restaurant with no less than three Michelin stars. Danay now works as demi-chef de partie in Adare Manor hotel.
PLC courses are often run in smaller environments to a university, which can be a less daunting experience for some.
“They offer smaller class sizes and more face-to-face time with lecturers. A lot of students might have gone into a course at third level, only to then drop out and come back to PLC because it’s a route that suits them better. Within the sector, there is a huge focus on programme improvement and it’s very much aligned with the labour market, providing good options for students. PLC courses are also great for people who don’t have a full picture of what they want to do yet,” Walshe adds.
Changing face of apprenticeships
Apprenticeships have changed dramatically in the last three-to-four years, with many sectors now entering the fray. People often think trades or construction when they think of an apprenticeship, but a massive expansion programme means there are now 58 different apprenticeships available across a range of sectors, including ICT, international financial services, auctioneering and property services, CGI technical artist and hairdressing, to name a few. With an apprenticeship, the student is employed and paid by the company as they complete their training.
“With these apprenticeships there is at least 50 per cent on the job learning. Many now reach between Level 5 and Level 10 on the national framework of qualifications, so for the first time we now have an honours degree apprenticeship which has just been launched in the area of recruitment,” Walshe says.
“They all have different structures in terms of how many days you’d be in work and in college. With the recruitment degree, for example, there are four days on the job and one day off the job, as well as online learning outside of working hours – that’s in conjunction with National College of Ireland (NCI),” she says.
Also recently launched was the first Doctorate Level 1 in Engineering, run in conjunction with the University of Limerick.
“It’s worth noting this is not something developed by one particular education entity, but many universities and colleges have gotten involved to develop these apprenticeships,” Walshe says.
The traineeship route
Traineeships are similar in the sense that they are very much geared towards work, but are shorter in duration to apprenticeships and the student is not employed by the company that is providing the training.
“Traineeships are good because they’re targeted to specific careers, and are very aligned to the workplace. Some examples of traineeship programmes include medical administration, legal studies administration, culinary skills, digital journalism and radio broadcasting, bicycle engineering, outdoor education instruction and early childcare,” she says.
Walshe says it’s often better to let a student’s story speak for itself.
“Stephanie Thompson left school early but returned to education through the Youthreach Programme some time later. She then progressed to a PLC course, and from there into a Law Degree. Stephanie was recently awarded a scholarship to study her Doctorate.
“That’s what further education and training is all about, offering many more options to students,” she says.
Stephanie is just one of many who took the FET route to their chosen career.
You can read other FET graduate stories and find out more on the options available at www.thisisfet.ie.