Taking the PLC route
While much of the focus now is on CAO offers, or not, there is an alternative route to careers which doesn’t involve the same nail-biting wait and, perhaps, less chance of disappointment.
More and more school-leavers, and mature students, are now opting for Post Leaving Certificate (PLC) courses as a stepping stone to college.
The PLCs were originally introduced more as stand-alone programmes, to equip school-leavers with the necessary skills for a huge array of jobs, including media, sports management, nursing, administration and childcare, and have grown enormously in popularity.
As well was teaching vocational skills necessary for the particular job, each programme incorporates communications and technology.
Increasingly, they are being used as a pre-third level course, with progression routes from the PLC into degree programmes in either a university or an institute of technology.
Often, a student who failed to achieve the necessary CAO points for entry to a third-level course, can get into the same programme a year or two later on the basis of having done a PLC. They make for a convenient choice, as the courses are available in about 200 schools and colleges countrywide, mainly offered by vocational education committees (VECs), but also in the secondary and community and comprehensive sectors.
For instance 16 colleges in City of Dublin VEC offer over 300 full-time PLC courses at FETAC levels 5 and 6. PLCs are usually of one or two year’s duration and are the main basis for awards from the Further Education and Training Awards Council (FETAC).
As an example of their growth in popularity as a route to college, this year saw a 26pc increase in the number of CAO applicants using a FETAC award to seek a third-level place.
Of the 77,628 CAO applicants, almost one in five, or 13,367 have sought entry to college using their FETAC results, rather than a Leaving Certificate.
The rise would also reflect the huge increase in the number of mature students, those aged 23 or over, applying for college this year. Many of these are people who have lost their jobs and who find that their skills are out of date for the modern marketplace.
There are about 32,000 PLC places, entry for which is based more on an interview than academic results, and individual colleges handle their own application process.
While there is huge demand for PLC courses and many of the most popular courses may have been filling up since the Spring, there are plenty of opportunities.