PLC courses producing 'too many hairdressers, health workers and childminders'
Post-Leaving Certificate (PLC) courses are producing too many hairdressers, childcare, health and community service workers - and not enough people with qualifications that employers need.
The mismatch is highlighted in a new evaluation on PLC programmes from the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).
The PLC sector, which enrols about 32,000 students a year, "generally appears to be poorly connected to the requirements of the labour market", according to the ESRI.
A lack of strategic planning means courses are too often dictated by demand from students and the skillsets of teachers, rather than being aligned to employers needs, the report states.
Specifically, in the most popular employment-oriented PLC fields - early childhood care and education, community and health services and hairdressing - the ESRI found an "oversupply of leavers with qualifications in these areas".
The discrepancies have emerged despite conditions set out by the Department of Education in 2012, stipulating that all new courses must be justified on the basis of labour market needs
"Much more needs to be done to ensure that course provision is both reflective of and responsive to labour demand," the ESRI states.
Education Minister Richard Bruton has responded with a promise to implement, with the State training authority Solas, a range of more than 40 actions to address concerns raised in the evaluation.
They include more co-ordination at a local level on PLC provision and employer engagement to become mandatory for new course proposals for job-specific or sector-specific provisions.
PLCs are further education courses, generally of one year's duration, which serve a dual purpose of preparing school-leavers and others for work, or acting as a stepping stone to higher education.
They are available all over the country, usually offered by education and training boards in colleges of further education, and, in some cases, in second-level schools.
The ESRI notes the value of the PLC sector in providing educational opportunities for a diverse group of learners, and in enhancing their access to employment and higher education.
Overall, on completing their courses, about 33pc of PLC graduates go straight to work, about 28pc progress to higher education, 19pc remain in further education and 12pc become unemployed.
PLC participants are 16pc more likely to be in employment relative to those who went to work straight after the Leaving Certificate.
PLC graduates are also 27pc more likely to progress to higher education than those who went straight into a job after their Leaving Cert.
Among the disappointing outcomes are that young people from disadvantaged regions, who have the highest risk of unemployment, don't have greater access to PLCs than their peers in better-off areas.
The ESRI also reports "particular concern that only one-third of PLC learners reported having had access to career guidance during their courses".