Editorial: CAO data bears good tidings for recovery hopes
Published 10/03/2014 | 02:30
THE Central Applications Office data about applications for third-level college places always makes for interesting reading. Those columns of figures bring us the future hopes and dreams of our young people and also tell us about what kind of skills and expertise will be available to the Irish economy half a decade from now.
The latest figures carried in today's Irish Independent are no exception. They tell us that news of a recovery in the stricken building sector is reaching our secondary schools, with youngsters showing a new-found interest in construction-related courses.
The numbers expressing a first choice interest in a degree course in built environment has more than doubled from 133 in 2013 to 312 this year. Similarly, there is a 15pc increase in the numbers of students selecting architecture as their first choice.
The Government has promised us several measures to stimulate the building industry in the coming months and the trade itself is finally showing signs of an end to its six-year slump. But we must also hope that the 'herd-mentality' is not allowed to rule here.
Parents and teachers have a big obligation to guide their young people. Students need to choose courses which they find personally interesting and attractive and they also need to take a more broadly informed view about future economic trends. Accessible information about all courses is key.
It is encouraging that engineering and technology courses remain popular, with 10pc growth. At the same time, agriculture, the ugly duckling which became a swan during the recession, retains its popularity, with a solid 12pc rise in the number of students expressing a first preference for courses in this sector.
That is very good news because the economic and social importance of farming and food production must continue to be a major economic driver in Ireland in the coming decades. The success of companies like Glanbia and Kerry Group were a beacon of hope during recent gloomy years.
There will be concern about a small 1pc decline in numbers opting for science courses. This must be carefully monitored as it is key to Ireland's future economic well-being.
Overall, we can conclude that there is much to celebrate in these CAO statistics. It is clear that more and more students are completing the Leaving Certificate and considering further worthwhile education and training options beyond that.