Oscars boost to further education
Ireland's recent Oscar win gave the whole country a much-needed boost. It gave an even greater boost to Ballyfermot College of Further Education, of which Richard Baneham, one of the winners in the Visual Effects category for his work on Avatar, is a graduate.
Ballyfermot College has long been celebrated for its courses in animation and in many other areas, and competition for places in the college is always very keen.
Although colleges in the third-level CAO sector dominate the headlines, the further education sector has been popular and effective for many years now. Participation rates in further and higher education are increasing every year. With fewer jobs available to school leavers, more and more have no choice but to continue their education to a higher level.
The increase in numbers of applications to CAO, with many more applicants than there are places in that sector, means that the competition for places in the FE sector is also intensifying. A cap of 30,000 places overall in the further education sector was set some years ago, although a further 1,500 places were allocated to the sector last year.
It is estimated that there were at least two applicants for every available FE place in 2009, and the competition for particular colleges, like Ballyfermot College of Further Education, was much more than that, with a reported 5,500 applicants for 1,200 places in that college.
Vocational Education Committees all around the country offer FE courses in colleges of varying sizes. City of Dublin VEC is the single biggest VEC provider of PLC places, with 16 colleges of further education. Cork City VEC is another big provider. Cavan VEC has just one Further Education college, the Cavan Institute of Further Education, but it is one of the largest in the country.
Further education colleges offer courses in a wide range of categories, including accounting, beauty therapy, business, advertising, public relations, computing, auctioneering, media studies, communications, journalism, sports and leisure studies, marketing, engineering, applied sciences, hotel and catering, hairdressing, music performance, music management, theatre studies, child care, montessori studies, social studies, legal secretarial studies, medical secretarial studies, horticulture, preliminary nursing studies and more.
Some courses can lead to specific qualifications not covered in the third-level (universities and institutes of technology) sector, such as in beauty therapy, the security industry, child care, medical or legal secretarial qualifications, to name some.
Most courses lead to FETAC (Further Education and Training Awards Council) qualifications which are an end in themselves, but which may be used as a platform for entry into higher education degree programmes in Ireland and the UK.
Open days: Tomorrow -- Sligo College of Further Education, Ballinode, Sligo, holds an open evening (7-9pm); March 19, Kildalton Agricultural College; Piltown, Co Kilkenny holds an open morning; March 23, open days in Clonakilty Agricultural College, Clonakilty, Co Cork and in Mountbellew Agricultural, Mountbellew, Co Galway; Also on March 23, an Open Evening will be held in St Sheelan's College of further education, Templemore, Co Tipperary from 7pm - 9 pm; Ballyfermot College of Education, starts its first round of interviews on March 22 until March 25. Further interviews will be held in May.