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Traineeships to be advertised on CAO system under planned reforms to third-level sector

Bursaries helping mature students step up to institutes of technology and universities also in pipeline


Further Education Minister Simon Harris.

Further Education Minister Simon Harris.

Further Education Minister Simon Harris.

More reforms of the third-level sector and CAO system will come into effect from September under measures being brought to Cabinet by Further Education Minister Simon Harris on Tuesday.

These include advertising traineeships on the CAO system before programmes are created that will run jointly across further and higher education.

His proposals will also call for the establishment of bursaries to help mature students transition from further education to institutes of technology (ITs) and universities.

Many of the measures being brought to cabinet are aimed at improving long-term visibility of education options outside of the traditional third level routes, while also working to improve the links between the further and higher education sectors.

Mr Harris aims to improve these links by creating joint further and higher education options, linking Level 4 and Level 5 certificate courses run by colleges of further education and local education and training boards with associated courses run by ITs and universities.

A source said examples of such links could include helping students studying pre-nursing or pre-medicine courses at colleges of further education and using these qualifications to continue their education along a designed pathway.

“It will have the colleges sitting around a table talking to each other for the first time about how courses can be linked,” a source added.

A source said improving dialogue between further education colleges, ITs and universities will help them identify and run modules that can be linked at various levels with benefits for students, teachers and colleges.

It is also thought the links will help reduce duplication between some training and education programmes at various levels.

There are hopes the measures will also help fund collaborative projects across the sectors to develop shared services such as libraries, counselling services and inclusion programmes between colleges and universities.

While timelines for some of these reforms are yet to be agreed, changes the CAO system so traineeships will be advertised to applicants will kick-in this September.

This mirrors reforms made to the college entry system last year when apprenticeships and further education options were included on the CAO system for the first time.

The traineeships will be employer-led — giving learners workplace experience. It is part of a push by the Government to reduce the burden on colleges and universities while addressing key skills gaps in the employment market.

Mr Harris has previously acknowledged the “one-size fits all approach” of transitioning straight to third level after the leaving cert will not suit everyone, but students may be unaware of alternative education and career paths.

The proposals are linked to increased investments in the third level system announced earlier this month as part of the Government’s Funding Our Future campaign to steer more public money to the sector and reduce education cost burdens on families.

He will also tell Tuesday’s cabinet meeting of proposals to develop and publish unified further education and training and higher education guidelines to certify blended online learning options.

The proposals will also be discussed at the first meeting of the Implementation Group on Higher Education Funding on Wednesday, a group tasked with overseeing the reforms.

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