Now that the first deadline for the CAO has passed, the next area of focus in schools, and indeed for adults who are interested in accessing education, is the further education (FE ) sector, also known as PLCs. Post-Leaving Cert courses can provide an alternative route to college and a means of exploring a particular field of study. They are also a means of upskilling in a particular area or a direct route into employment. All courses teach research skills, self-directed learning, and computer skills. Many school leavers use these courses to help them with future career choices.
Progession to third level
PLC colleges also offer students the opportunity to progress to Level 7 and Level 8 honours degree programmes in higher educational institutes as there are quotas held for applicants in several faculties. This path is extremely useful for those who may not secure the CAO points for their preferred course choices, but can secure them through the reserved places schemes offered by many third-level institutions.
A wide range of disciplines are covered, some of which include business, computers, electronics, sport and leisure, art and design, marketing, hairdressing, beauty therapy, and farming. Having successfully completed eight modules, a student then has the choice of applying to the CAO on the basis of his/her PLC results. Stipulations involve attaining high grades and meeting the required number of distinctions.
There are PLC courses that prepare you for specific further study, such as art portfolio preparation and pre-engineering courses; however these are extremely competitive. The hardest courses in the country from which to progress into higher education include nursing and veterinary medicine. There are only two nursing courses available in the county — in Galway Technical Institute and Clarin College, Athenry — but be warned as places are limited even with the maximum result of eight distinctions. Many students however successfully apply to nursing programmes afterwards in the UK through the UCAS system.
Courses that allow direct employment include childcare, healthcare, and secretarial positions. Progression to third level thereafter is through the CAO into first year, or through advanced entry to the second year of that programme if there are pre-arranged conditions.
Apply now for some courses
The application process is simple and students apply to each college they are interested in directly. Once the application has been received the college will invite applicants for interview, which normally happens between May and September. Minimum academic qualifications for these courses are normally five Leaving Cert passes, with some courses requiring specific subjects such as maths. Some courses accept prior work experience as an entry requirement.
Most courses are examined through continuous assessment incorporating assignments and exams, and classes are smaller with more potential for direct contact with teachers. Recent reports on the PLC sector have rightfully pointed out that there needs to be a system put in place whereby industry practitioners, who contribute added value, can teach in our schools or colleges. At the moment, this is not possible for the most part without affiliation with the teaching council.
The ESRI also reports "particular concern that only one-third of PLC learners reported having had access to career guidance during their courses".
The biggest PLC schools locally are Galway Technical Institute and Galway Community College, however PLC courses take place in many schools and community education centres across the county. Offering a mixture of practical work, academic work, and work experience, courses are offered at Level 5 (one year ) and Level 6 (two years ). As a tutor on these courses, I see first-hand the positive impact they have, not only on young students, but on older students investing in new skills or returning to their careers. Many colleges are already accepting applications which they advertise on their websites and on open days. For those interested, contact the relevant institutions now. www.careerguidancegalway.com Contact Margaret at 086 206 8660 - Email: [email protected]