Record high for CAO as new career paths open
Demand for college places has hit a new record - but new career routes have also started to open up for school-leavers.
As the CAO recorded 76,227 CAO applicants yesterday, the first of new-style apprenticeships in the financial services sector were announced.
CAO applications are up from 74,499 at this time last year, and from 71,151 on the same day in 2013.
This year's figure is likely to rise further as potential third-level students take advantage of the CAO's late application facility. Last year, the final tally was more than 79,214.
Because CAO points are determined by the law of supply (number of course places) and demand (number of applicants), the rise in applications is likely to see points jump in some areas. It will be several weeks before the CAO issues a breakdown showing where the extra demand is focussed this year.
The increase in applications is linked to the ongoing rise in pupil numbers at second-level and demand for qualifications for careers in the modern era.
But, as the CAO logged the last of its applications ahead of its February 1, 5.15pm deadline, another event gave a taste of new choices ahead, and it is starting this year.
Employers in the financial service sector have launched the International Financial Services Apprenticeship Initiative, offering an 'earn and learn' approach to career development.
The apprenticeships will allow for qualifications from Level 5 - the equivalent of a post-Leaving Certificate (PLC) course - up to Level 9, the equivalent of a master's degree.
The apprentices will graduate with qualifications in areas such as international financial services, data analytics and risk and compliance.
The initiative is a partnership between a range of financial services companies and the National College of Ireland which is located in the heart of the International Financial Services Centre (IFSC) in Dublin's docklands.
Apprenticeships were traditionally confined to industries such as construction, motor, aircraft maintenance and print, but, following a major review, they are being extended to new areas, including white-collar sectors such as financial services and information technology.
Apprenticeships combine on-the-job training with time in college and there has been demand from employers to broaden the offering to allow companies to meet all their skills needs.
In the case of the Financial Services Apprenticeship Initiative, apprentices will spend 60pc of their time working in companies and the remainder gaining specific qualifications.
The initiative is promising 1,000 opportunities up to 2020, 220 of which will be available this September, some for school-leavers or PLC students and some, more specialist, for career changers.
Other new apprenticeships will be rolled out in the months ahead, while there is also a resurgence in opportunities in blue-collar trades as economic recovery takes hold.
Marc Coleman, director of Financial Services Ireland (FSI), the division in the employers' body Ibec that represents the financial services sector, said the apprenticeships will give access to careers in international financial services to those who otherwise may not have considered it.