Keep an eye and ear out for apprenticeships
A decade ago when I asked my classes who was thinking of going to third level, a small, but significant, minority would always indicate that they were more interested in entering the world of work or apprenticeship training. In 2006 and 2007, there were many such options to build rewarding careers.
However, by 2010, and still today, when I ask the same question, nearly all students indicate that they wish to progress to third level. It has been suggested that this is a result of snobbishness among parents who only value third level education. While this may be true in some quarters, we must recognise that, for many years, school-leavers often had no other option. Jobs were far from plentiful and apprenticeships were practically non-existent. This is changing and, once again, opportunities are increasing for school-leavers who wish to explore their talents and abilities, through routes other than third level.
Traditional apprenticeships were available in craft areas, and provided young people with on-the-job training as well as a qualification. There was a heartening 39pc increase in those registering for these between 2014 and 2016. The largest increases were in carpentry, electrical and motor mechanics.
Opportunities for first-year apprentices can be found at any time of year by searching recruitment websites, as well as more specialised websites, such as the Construction Industry Federation's apprentices.ie. Spring is the time when many large organisations begin the recruitment process. The ESB is currently inviting applicants to register an interest for a recruitment drive that will begin in March. Other organisations that have recruited in the past include Iarnród Éireann, Dublin Bus, Bus Éireann, Bord na Móna and Audi, to name a few. The Defence Forces have also begun recruiting regularly, including for apprentice positions.
Global healthcare company GSK is currently recruiting for five apprentices: two in the traditional area of engineering for its Sligo plant, as well as a new business and supply chain apprentice in Cork and a pharmaceutical technical apprentice in both Dungarvan and Sligo. Small- and medium-sized employers have also begun recruiting apprentices again. These often do not advertise, so anyone interested should use all available contacts, including telling every adult who asks about post Leaving Cert plans exactly what they are hoping to do. You never know who may have a contact. A good CV and cover letter, and submitting it to employers, is also a good idea. If an applicant is having trouble finding an opportunity, starting in September, they could consider a further education/post Leaving Certificate (PLC) course, to gain basic skills in their chosen area as well as work experience. This could prove invaluable for gaining industry contacts and giving you a little extra appeal, when compared with other candidates. Further information on all apprenticeships can be found on the SOLAS website, apprenticeships.ie.
I don't believe college is for everyone and we must provide young people with opportunities to learn and develop in ways which suit them if we wish to harness their talents.
The return of traditional apprenticeships is to be welcomed. Perhaps, more interesting is the introduction of new apprenticeship models. These will allow students to gain qualifications in areas such as financial services, through paid work and study. We will explore this after the mid-term break.
Aoife Walsh is a guidance counsellor at Malahide Community School, Co Dublin
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Q. My son is interested in studying Agriculture at third level. Are there any Level 5/PLC routes into this area?
A. Many agricultural science courses accept students who hold PLC qualifications. This includes Agricultural Science (DN250) in UCD, which accepts any laboratory technique (5M3807) or animal care (5M2768) courses. Waterford IT will consider applicants with any Level 5 award for its Agricultural Science (WD191) course.
It is worth exploring the 'PLC/ further education' section of the qualifax.ie course finder. It may be helpful to search by county, which will give a more manageable list of results. Applications for a PLC are made directly to a college of further education. It is prudent to check that the college offers all subjects that may be required for entry to your chosen third level course. For example, in the case of UCD's DN250, any student who does not achieve the required Leaving Cert maths grade will be expected to present a distinction in C20139 or 5N1833 or C20174 or C20175, all of which are maths modules, for entry.