For those graduating from high school or looking to return to school, there are more options than ever available to them for the next steps in their educational journey. While many may decide to take purely academic courses at higher education institutions, there are a host of convenient and flexible alternatives to choose from in the field of continuing education (FET).
FET encompasses all education options available to young people at the post-secondary level that are unrelated to attendance at a tertiary institution. FET offers tuition and hands-on work experience in every field imaginable, ensuring that those who choose not to pursue higher education can still access their chosen field of employment.
FET includes PLC courses, apprenticeships, internships, community and adult education, and basic literacy and numeracy services.
PLC (Post Leaving Certificate) courses are one to two year programs for those who wish to immerse themselves in a certain industry and gain first hand experience before committing to a third level course or career in said domain. The courses are not limited to those who have recently completed their school leaving certificate and are aimed at anyone who has completed their school leaving certificate exams at any stage. They are a viable option for adults who also wish to return to school, and for those who have not completed their Leaving Certificate but still wish to pursue a PLC, they should contact the institution directly at which they want to study to apply.
These courses can serve as an alternative access route to higher education, through which, at the end of their CAP, students can apply for third-level courses using the credits they have accumulated during their course. .
PLCs tend to be very hands-on courses, aimed at giving students hands-on experience in a given field before continuing their studies or working. As of September 2022, fees are no longer charged for PLC courses, but depending on the course, there may be additional expenses.
Apprenticeships are fully accredited and internationally recognized programs for those looking to get straight to work, while gaining all the qualifications needed to work in their chosen field. At present, 56 different types of learning are available in Ireland, with many more in development.
There are two types of apprenticeship – craft apprenticeships, referring to apprenticeships in industries such as plumbing, mechanics, electricity etc., and also a branch of new apprenticeships in other areas of industry , in areas such as cooking, accounting, insurance, IT, etc. Both types of apprenticeship combine practical on-the-job training with periods of off-the-job instruction.
Apprentices must be at least 16 years old and have obtained at least 5 D grades in their Junior Certificate exams. Apprenticeships can last between two and four years, after which former apprentices are fully qualified in their field and have a qualification between NFQ Levels 6 and 10. Craft apprenticeships offer a Level 6 qualification.
Those wishing to undertake an apprenticeship must find an employer themselves and ask him to take them on as an apprentice. Employers for apprenticeships must be approved by SOLAS. Both the apprentice and the employer must sign a formal apprenticeship contract, guaranteeing that certain conditions will be met throughout the apprenticeship and that the apprentice will be paid appropriately for the duration of the contract.
There is no cost to undertake an apprenticeship. During “out of work” periods, apprentices will continue to be paid.
Some professional organizations have set up their own apprenticeship programs, with their own requirements and a list of approved employers.
Internships are programs run by local Education and Training Boards (ETBs) alongside industry organizations and employers, to provide practical training and education. Internship programs are developed in response to industry needs, ensuring that at the end of their internship, interns are ready to enter the job market and meet the gaps and demands of it.
Internships last between six and 20 months and include at least 30 percent on-the-job learning. There are currently 75 different internship programs on offer across Ireland. Placements are open to people from all walks of life, including young school leavers, those who have left school early and want to return to school, those who have been long-term unemployed and those looking to retrain or to recycle.
Internships combine technical skills related to their specific program, with transferable skills that are useful in a number of areas, to ensure that at the end of their internship, interns are as prepared as possible to enter the labor market.
Local providers across Ireland host the education portion of placements, at FET centres, community colleges, further education colleges, among others. Local ETBs organize the on-the-job training part of the internship for interns, so unlike apprenticeships, it is not the intern’s responsibility to find a suitable role or employer. While on the job, interns will have a business mentor to guide them and monitor their progress.
The placements are co-funded by the Irish Government and the European Social Fund. As a result, internships have no fees.
Community education refers to adult education and learning outside of formal education, managed by community education departments within local ETBs. Community education aims to enhance learning, empower people, and enable them to contribute meaningfully to society. These programs are personalized and the person taking the course works with the provider to create a program that suits them and their needs.
Community education classes are part-time. Courses tend to last between 8 and 10 weeks and can involve a commitment of around two hours per week. The time commitment and duration may vary depending on the course.
These programs aim not only to help the person taking the course to develop, but also to contribute to the development and advancement of their community, particularly in the case of marginalized communities. Community education programs also offer support to make classes as accessible as possible, such as mentorship programs and childcare assistance.
Community education is recognized through the National Qualifications Framework (NFQ). This allows learners to progress directly to other forms of education, using their Community Education course as a stepping stone to do so. As a result, learners can move from non-formal education to formal education, from basic education to further education and from further education to higher education, if they wish. Accreditation for these courses is not always a priority for providers or learners, but local ETBs should be able to provide assistance or advice.
FET strives to include campaigns and strategies to address the large base of adults with low levels of literacy and numeracy in Ireland. In recent years, considerable work has been done to integrate these supports into FET, seeking to reduce reliance on voluntary support, providing recognition and certification for learners, developing approaches to initial assessment of literacy and numeracy and generally raising public awareness of these issues. .
Over the next five years, it is hoped that literacy and numeracy support will be fully integrated into a broader FET offering, and will also incorporate digital literacy and capability as a core element of literacy and numeracy support. to numeracy. Future campaigns will also seek to remove the stigma associated with literacy and numeracy issues, and that there are reasonable accommodations for learners with such issues at all levels of education.
Financial aid such as the SUSI Scholarship or the Return to Education Allowance may be available for individuals pursuing some of the alternatives to higher education mentioned above. Social benefits such as Jobseeker’s Allowance, Single Parent Allowance, Invalidity Allowance, among others, may be retained throughout certain programs, such as internships or employment initiatives. community education. It is not possible for apprentices to receive government grants or social benefits, as they are paid throughout their training and study programme. Students undertaking PLCs may be eligible for SUSI or other relevant government grants.
For more information visit: apprenticeship.ie/fetchcourses.ie/solas.ie/susi.ie/qualifax.ie.