There are more than 200 further education (FE) colleges around the country providing what are commonly known as post-Leaving Cert (PLC) courses. The courses are of one or two years' duration and offer excellent opportunities.
PLCs prepare school-leavers, or adults returning to education, for direct employment, or can be used as a basis for entry to higher education. All feature modules in essential skills, such as communications, which stand to everyone.
The wide breadth of courses is as diverse as hairdressing, pre-university science and engineering, media, art, accountancy, and many more. There are more than 700 courses listed on the CAO that will consider any PLC as a basis for entry, and most PLCs can lead to possible entry to multiple CAO courses.
Application to a PLC is made directly to the FE college, most of which are now taking applications for the autumn. In general, there are no closing dates and most colleges will continue to accept applications until all places are filled. However, popular courses fill quickly, so early application is advised.
At times, my students question why they should do a PLC when their goal is to progress to third level. They reason: 'This course is a Level 5, same as Leaving Cert, and I want a Level 8!'
Yes, the majority of FE courses are Level 5. The Leaving Cert is a very broad qualification and many students struggle to be successful in all areas. A student may find Irish and geography difficult, but excel in maths and computer science. This student may not achieve the entry requirements or points for a chosen computer science course in university. If that student takes a PLC in computer science, they could easily make the grade for entry to third level the following year, because their study is focused in their area of interest and aptitude. They can use their PLC results, rather than points, to compete for a place. With a two-year PLC, a student may even progress directly to second year in higher education.
FE courses involve smaller classes than universities and institutes of technology, and the combination of continuous assessment and a final exam gives students opportunities to gain feedback from teachers and so improve their learning.
FE courses also allow students to immerse themselves in their preferred area of study in their own locality before committing to a four-year degree, or moving away from home with the financial burden this can entail - perfect for the student who may be unable or unwilling to commit, just yet!