Solas to Replace FAS

solas-replaces-fasEarlier this year, Minister for Education, Ruairi Quinn, published a new bill stating that SOLAS, An tSeirbhís Oideachais Leanúnaigh agus Scileanna, will be the new education and training authority under the aegis of the Department of Education and Skills. This means that in Autumn of this year, FÁS will be dissolved and the FÁS training division will be transferred to the 16 ETBs (Education and Training Boards) that have recently replaced the 33 VECs. SOLAS also will be responsible for the commissioning and funding of these ETBs.

Speaking recently about the establishment of SOLAS, the Minister said, “I believe that SOLAS will bring a much needed focus to [the Further Education and Training sector] of our education system for the first time.” The Department of Education have said that SOLAS will play a key role in Ireland’s economic recovery through the establishment of a world class Further Education and Training system and that the unemployed, in particular the long-term unemployed, will be the priority group for support.

FÁS was set up in 1988 with the aim to assist those seeking employment. The authority runs a number of job centres, as well as apprenticeships and trainings all across Ireland, however it has faced much criticism over the years due to its cost and also the idea that it is simply a scheme to lower the country’s unemployment statistics. During the boom, it was spending a staggering €1 billion a year of taxpayer’s money and the controversy regarding this was brought to a head in 2008, when the Dáil Public accounts committee began an investigation into FÁS expenditure.

Unfortunately, even after all the money spent, the recruitment perspective of FÁS has not been a success. Statistics have shown that people who completed a FÁS training were less likely to get a job than those who had not. There has also been problems with the duplication of courses, within the PLC sector and between it and the FÁS training system.

At the moment there are 180,000 further education and 75,000 training places provided in FÁS training centres and, while there is the problem of duplication, there are some courses on offer that have been successful, such as personal training and access programmes to university. There are also some successful institutes, such as Ballyfermot College of Further Education, who are known internationally for the quality of their graduates. It will be important that these progressive and successful colleges are supported within the new framework of SOLAS and ETBs.

There will be pressure on SOLAS and the ETBs to make things work. It is more important than ever before that the further education system provides training for the right kind of jobs, as much of Ireland’s current unemployment crisis is due to a lack of qualified workers in key areas with specific skills.

There have been some suggestions in the Irish Independent regarding improvements needed, such as the need to restructure the lengthy and expensive apprenticeship programmes provided by FÁS. In 2008, when the construction industry collapsed, FÁS provided its students, who were in the middle of their four year training, with funding to complete the rest of their apprenticeship in the UK. These students were brought to full qualification in just four months.

The Irish Independent also noted that some of the successful courses, in areas such as catering, were changed into degree programmes in Institutes of Technology and therefore created a shortage of staff in the restaurant and hotel industry and left students who could not meet the entry requirements for the degree courses, without an opportunity to train.

SOLAS needs to be more than just a new name, it needs to be a service that will train someone appropriately to secure them a job in the country. It needs to be a service that will provide the skill set needed for employment, otherwise, its potential to create a successful new work force will be lost and the country could end up facing the same problems further on down the line.

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Education and Training Boards Replace VECs

education training boardsSixteen  Education and Training boards (ETBs) have replaced the  33 Vocational Education Committees (VECs). that previously existed, VECs were established in 1930 by the Vocational Education Act with their original purpose being to provide continuation and technical education to 14 to 16 year olds. Over time the responsibilities of VECs increased particularly in the area of adult education, such as post-primary education and further education. In September 2008, County Dublin VEC opened its first community National School in Porterstown, Dublin 15 and this was the first time the VEC had been involved in primary school education.

VECs also provided second level education to nearly 100,000 students in 247 schools and more than 200,000 adults participated in VEC adult and community education programmes each year. Through local VECs there has been a wide range of learning opportunities available to people who want to improve their qualifications and skills and to those wanting a second educational chance. Courses and training include full-time and part-time adult education programmes, night classes, skills for work programmes and adult literacy services.

As well as taking over the responsibilities of the VECs, ETBs are responsible for SOLAS; a new further education and training authority that replaced FÁS.

The list of ETBs is as follows:

– City of Dublin ETB
– Donegal ETB
– Kerry ETB
– Cork ETB
– Galway and Roscommon ETB
– Limerick and Clare ETB
– Cavan and Monaghan ETB
– Dublin and Dun Laoghaire ETB
– Kildare and Wicklow ETB
– Kilkenny and Carlow ETB
– Laois and Offaly ETB
– Longford and Westmeath ETB
– Louth and Meath ETB
– Mayo, Sligo and Leitrim ETB
– Tipperary ETB
– Waterford and Wexford ETB

With this increase in responsibility of ETBs, there is the obvious question as to whether there will be sufficient support to cover all the areas that the VECs had previously covered. The changes are drastic; Mayo, Sligo and Leitrim are now all sharing one ETB when they used to have one VEC each and Limerick and Clare are now sharing one where there used to be three VECs between them. City of Dublin, Donegal and Kerry are the only headquarters to remain unaffected by the change. The government has estimated that these changes will result in savings of €2.1m annually and only time will tell if these departments can run as effectively as they hope.

Fiona McBennett

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Number of CAO Courses to be Cut

cao changesMajor reforms to the CAO are to be introduced in September 2014 in an attempt to improve the Leaving Certificate and take away some of the pressure of the points race. The first of these changes, proposed by the Irish Universities Association, is the plan to reduce the number of CAO courses to which students can apply. The aim is not to reduce choice, but to allow students to enter college through broader courses before specialising in a specific area. This change, which will take effect in 2017, means that students will put off specialisation until second year of their college course.

The argument is that there are too many specialised courses now for students to choose from. There is currently a massive 1,400 CAO courses compared to 385 in 1991, with a particular increase in honours degree courses, going from 387 courses in 2000 to 950 this year. This growth in specialised courses with limited places has meant that the points requirements have gone up, making it difficult for students to gain a place. Some colleges tend to use these specialised courses as a selling point but students can often find that they are in the same lectures as those who are in more general courses that required lower points. The intention is that by cutting the amount of courses on the CAO list, pressure will be taken off second level students and the quality of teaching will be improved.

Education Minister, Ruairi Quinn, also plans on reducing the marking system from the current 14 specific grades (such as A1, B3, C2 etc), in an attempt to lessen the pressure on students to get the extra five points that define one grade from the other and allow the student to gain advantage. This type of grading has led to pressure on teachers to ‘teach to the test’ instead of allowing for a more generalised and diverse learning experience. The third proposed change is to make the move away from predictability in the Leaving Cert, as currently, students tend to study topics that they are sure will come up due to trends based on past exam papers, again this focuses on exam based learning rather than a deeper and broader education.

These changes will be the first ever to take effect on the CAO system which was founded in 1976. Many have criticised it for limiting people’s access to third level education due to its points based supply and demand system, meaning that each year, many students are forced to repeat their Leaving Certificates in an attempt to get a place on a course. There have also been criticisms that the CAO system is designed around full-time, school leaver entrants rather than taking into account the wider range of students.

However, there are other ways of pursuing further education outside of the CAO system. FÁS is a government body which promotes training and education for everyone; with apprenticeship schemes and community and specialist training programmes. Post leaving certificate courses (PLC) are another popular option for those looking beyond the CAO. They provide a FETAC qualification which is internationally recognised and the courses are usually one to two years in duration. Entry is not based on a points system but a pass in the Leaving Certificate is required. PLC courses offer a wide range of training experiences; everything from qualifications in childcare to business studies are available and there are over 1000 courses available. Some PLC courses such as nursing and engineering, can help you progress to a degree.

Private colleges, such as Griffith College, are another option. They work outside the CAO points system and courses can be applied for directly through the college itself. It is worth bearing in mind, however, that these colleges do require payment of a fee to attend which can range between five and seven thousand a year. There is also the choice of doing an online course, of which there are many to choose from. This requires self-motivation and can be a convenient way to learn without having to go to a college and have face to face lectures. If you would like to attend a university and you are over 23, you can apply as a mature student as many universities reserve a number of spaces each year for mature students. Entry is not based on points but often on your CV, an interview and sometimes, an aptitude test.

It is to be hoped that the new CAO changes will be a progressive step towards a more accurate and stress free transition from second to third level education. In the meantime, as described above, there are other avenues available. So for any students finding themselves short of points for their chosen courses, perhaps these may be the way to go until the CAO implements a more accommodating system for second level graduates.

Fiona McBennett

CAO and third level courses –

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Colleges Offer Free Online Courses

free online coursesTrinity College Dublin and many other top universities around the world are teaming up to offer free online courses. It is part of a growing trend towards large scale online education through massive open online courses, known as MOOCs. These courses are aimed at interactive participation and access via the internet at no cost to the student.

MOOCs originally started around 2008 in various elite colleges in America and now is the first UK multi-institutional provider to offer MOOC courses. FutureLearn has many partnerships with colleges around the UK and now Trinity College Dublin and Australia’s largest university, Monash, have become the first two international collaborations. The British Library and the British Museum along with many more institutions have agreed to collaborate and share expertise in the development of the courses and the first courses are set to begin later this year.

Of course, online education is nothing new, there are thousands of online courses available nowadays, but MOOCs are different in that they are free, open to anyone and there is no limit on places; the largest MOOC to date had 300, 000 participants. MOOCs are being described by many as the biggest development in education for decades; making higher education accessible to anyone, anywhere. They are taught by top academics from some of the best colleges in the world and so students get the benefit of learning from some of the world’s best educators. They can also be used for professional development and can also allow students to explore possible career changes and personal interests.

The global publicity from the courses is beneficial for the colleges too; allowing them to develop their international reputation at a time where there is a constant battle between colleges for students, staff and funding. The timing for Trinity College couldn’t be better as the Obamas only recently visited the college’s Old library during their high profile trip to Ireland.

Typically MOOCs are offered through recorded lectures and there is contact between the students and teachers by email. Students taking the courses generally have access to readings, activities, discussion boards and quizzes and MOOCs are usually assessed by machine graded multiple choice questions and by peer-reviewed written assignments. These courses are not yet accredited by the colleges but some MOOCs are already offering certificates to those who complete their courses and many educational experts feel that it will only be a matter of time before colleges and employers start to take MOOCs more seriously.

While there is great excitement about this new era of internet based higher education, many academics are also sceptical about it. There is a fear that traditional face-to-face teaching will be lost and that ultimately MOOCs could destroy the college experience; replacing the need for professors and lowering the standard of education. It is also possible that MOOCs may not be free in the future as currently they are being funded by the participating colleges and private businesses and as the interest and popularity in MOOCs grows, they may have no choice but to charge learners for their experience.

Whatever your opinion on MOOCs is, there is no denying that internet based learning is rapidly growing in popularity. The convenience and flexibility of doing a course from the comfort of your own home is especially appealing to those who are already working and want to develop their job skills or transition into a new career. It is also great for people who may not live close to colleges and universities as the choice of online courses is limitless and far less restrictive. Working from home also means there is no transportation or accommodation costs either. Online courses can also encourage student participation more than a regular class as often a student’s attendance is based on their participation in online discussions. Online material can also be accessed all day, everyday and so students can easily review lectures and read related material at a time that suits them.

More and more colleges and universities are offering online courses and now with the emergence of MOOCs there is a greater selection than ever before of courses and options for people to study what they feel is best in helping them achieve their academic and personal goals.

Fiona McBennett

Find Distance learning Providers at

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6000 New Springboard Places

springboard coursesAnother 6,000 free part-time higher education places are being made available to provide re-training opportunities for jobseekers. The third Springboard allocation was announced on 21st June by the Minister for Education and Skills, Ruairí Quinn T.D.

Over 200 Springboard courses will be provided at 38 Institutes of Technology, Universities and privately-run higher education colleges across Ireland for individuals to acquire new skills that are in demand in the economy.

The courses will focus on growth areas such as Information Technology, Communication, International Languages and International Financial Services.  Programmes will also be available to acquire qualifications in areas such as Six Sigma, international selling, business start-up and entrepreneurship skills.

The 6,000 places now on offer represent a €23 million investment by the Department of Education and Skills to equip jobseekers with new skills in sectors with good employment prospects. Courses are free, part-time, and are at certificate, degree and postgraduate level. Applications can now be made on

Announcing the 6,000 free places, Minister Quinn said: “Springboard is providing a dynamic pipeline of job-ready graduates, with up-to-the-minute skills and valuable qualifications for sectors of the Irish economy that are expanding and recruiting.  This practical initiative, which is part of the Government’s Action Plan for Jobs, is tailored to labour-market needs and designed to stimulate economic growth. ”

Over 2,000 job-seekers have successfully returned to work in the past year on completion of a Springboard course. Afurther 3,000 will complete courses this month and are preparing to return to the jobs market with qualifications tailored to high-growth industries.

Springboard’s partnership with an expert panel, that identifies the expertise required in the economy as well as guidance on course content, is key to this programme’s success.

In the third year of the Springboard programme, there is a greater focus on delivering the skills required by growing industries through the content and design of the courses being offered to jobseekers. Over 80 per cent of courses will also offer a work placement for participants.

Chairman of the Higher Education Authority (HEA) John Hennessy, said that Springboard is more than an education initiative; it is driving a culture change within the system.

“The Springboard approach is transforming how we prepare people for the jobs market. Instead of education administrators designing courses in the hope that they make people employable, we start with industry needs. Courses offer the skills-set employers need from graduates, in conjunction with educators”, said Mr Hennessy.

Springboard is managed by the HEA on behalf of the Department. It works in an integrated way with the other strands of the Government’s industry focused skills initiatives (Springboard, Momentum, ICT conversion, Skillnets, JobBridge) that come under the Skills Plus umbrella. .

A Freephone Guidance line 1800 303 523 is available to offer advice on course choices and applications.

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Drama and Computer Students Come Top

drama and computer studiesWhoever would have thought that there would be any similarity between students of drama and computer science? Most of us would think that the two groups are poles apart; with the drama students typically being arty and creative and the computer students scientific and practical. Well it’s this creativity and practicality that has linked them as being the best performing groups when it comes to life skills and problem solving.

Trinity College Dublin recently carried out research to examine how different sets of students coped with cognitive problems. They had a wide range of students taking part from fields such as sciences, engineering and sociology, as well as drama and computer studies. They gave each of the groups tasks to solve and recorded the ways in which the students dealt with them. They were particularly looking for evidence of creative thinking in the problem solving and gave the students problems such as working out how to fix a candle to a wall, using only a box of thumbtacks and matches. (Try work that one out! The candle wax isn’t allowed to drip once it’s fixed to wall and lit.)

Both the drama and the computer science students came out on top in terms of their ability to think outside of the box when solving the problems, even though their methods were very different. The drama students were able to put themselves into the situation and see things from another perspective; for example, another of the tasks required them to determine a solution to a radiation problem for which they took on the role of the doctor.
At the same time, the computer science students were equally as effective in solving the tasks by approaching the problems in an entirely different way. According to Dr. Mc Tiernan, leader of the study and who gave the preliminary results of the research to the Irish Independent last week, these students used a rule based approach when working on the tasks and went with the idea that the rules were made to be broken. They used their logistical and practical skills to think alternatively about the problems and, in turn, were just as successful in their results.

Cognitive skills, such as the ones displayed by these two sets of students, are a vital for both the workplace and life. The term ‘thinking outside the box’ refers to the ability to see things from a different perspective and the ability to be creative when faced with a problem or situation. It means not having ‘tunnel vision’ and being open to suggestions and different ways of doing things.

In life, we can all to easily get stuck in the same patterns of thinking and behaving and may find that we are missing out on so much more of what life has to offer. It’s this ability to step out of the ‘box’ that leads to all sorts of possibilities in life. It means sticking with a problem longer and looking at it from various perspectives, like the drama students, instead of dismissing it when our straightforward thinking mind can’t find a solution.

Of course, these cognitive skills that allow us to think more openly and work at a problem longer are ideal for the workplace and what any employer would want to see in an employee. Successful people will always want to get a job done, will want to find a solution and work out ways of dealing with a problem. They will be the people who will have ideas and are not afraid to work at a dilemma and see it from all points of view. As well as having the obvious educational requirements for a job, being equipped with the ability to problem solve and be creative is a huge advantage in any line of work.

So, back to that candle problem, have you solved it yet? Well here’s the solution; empty the box of thumbtacks and nail it to the wall with the thumbtacks. Then pop your candle into the box and light it. Hey presto, your candle is lit and not dripping! Go try it out on your friends and see how they get on solving it and if they are successful you can tell them that they might be suited to a course in drama or computers.

Fiona McBennett

Find drama courses at and computer studies courses at

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Evening Courses

evening courses DublinAre you looking for a career change? Making up lost time? Do you need a slip of paper to get that promotion, or maybe you want a new hobby, or to develop your language skills? Whatever your aims, you probably have too many responsibilities to drop everything and head off back to college. Entering full time education can mean hefty debts, a struggle to make ends meet and disconnection from a successful career path: a serious lifestyle commitment. Evening courses, on the other hand, might take up a small chunk of free time and a little cash, but don’t require you to drastically change your life.

Evening courses might not require the same sacrifices as going full time, but that doesn’t limit what you can achieve: it’s possible to spend your evenings doing anything, right up to becoming a doctor, though it’ll take a little longer than the intensive route. Another major benefit of an evening education is an entirely different learning environment. With many students having been out of formal education for significant periods of time, group classes tend to produce a more mature atmosphere. Students understand each other’s apprehension when it comes to learning, and many describe their classmates as supportive and dedicated. Many late night time students arrive after a full days work, have limited time to complete assignments and juggle numerous other responsibilities in their lives, but still enjoy complete courses, and do so successfully. Students tend to come from a much wider range of age groups: age, as they say, is no barrier to learning.

evening courses ireland

If you’re looking to gain a high level qualification you’ll have to plan ahead, as most providers of university-level courses run their evening courses on a similar schedule to the universities themselves, commencing in September or January each year. You’ll also need to think carefully about your long term future, as undertaking a high level evening course may require you to live near to the learning centre for a substantial amount of time. When studying in the evening, for example, PhDs regularly take at least 6 years to complete. Most universities now run a few of their regular courses with night time options, so your local university is a great place to start the search. By signing up with a major university, you’ll gain access to the extensive facilities (and perks) available to the full time students, and benefit from the universities reputation. Most courses at this level require prior lower level qualifications or extensive relevant experience, though if you’re doing something with a business focus, decent management experience is often more than enough.

If you want that advanced qualification, but the universities are just too far away (or you prefer to move at your own pace) there’s always the Distance Learning option. This market is dominated by the likes of the Open University, whose courses include almost anything that can be done without extensive onsite tutoring. Advanced photography, design and innovation, criminology and even a PGCE (teaching qualification) are all available. Whilst there are some time restrictions, courses run by centres like the OU are by far the most flexible, as you’ll able to do everything from your own living room, largely as and when you want to. You might not ever meet your tutors, but they will act as useful hands on guides via the Internet. Should it all get too much, you’ll even have the option to leave it alone for a few months.

For most people, the thought of a full on diploma, let alone masters or PhD, might be too much to contemplate. If you’re looking for something a little less long term and a little less strenuous, commonly available options include short courses, many only a few weeks in length, these cover subjects such as languages (at all levels), writing (a subject in which the Irish Writer’s Centre in Dublin attracts particularly prestigious evening lecturers), philosophy, music, child care and film studies. Universities are an equally valuable resource in these kind of areas, though you may find that smaller, private schools and specialised centres offer more flexibility when it comes to schedules and course length. For subjects like languages and music, private tutors (check the local papers) can produce tailor made classes at affordable prices, especially if you can form a group to study together.

Dublin is an obvious centre for Ireland’s evening courses, offering a huge variety of topics at varying levels over dozens of institutions, large and small. Elsewhere, the better known colleges in Galway, Limerick, Cork and Dundalk all offer impressive evening options, as do private schools in Waterford, Sligo and Roscommon (amongst many other areas). If you’re based in a more remote area, you may be able to find more limited courses on offer at local schools or through private tutors, but will have to travel or enrol on a distance learning course to experience more in depth and intensive subject matter.

Just for fun, or as an exercise in CV building and personal development, the large and varied selection of evening courses on offer around Ireland are likely to fulfil your educational needs without interfering with your career. From cheap, large-group courses lasting a few weeks to a full on doctorate that can take several years, there’s plenty on offer to please everyone.

Find Evening Courses on »

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Education Overview June 16th

education newsTHE SOCIAL MEDIA colossus Facebook, has decided to work directly with Irish schools in order to help combat cyberbullying. The deall was made at a meeting between senior Facebook executives and our officials of the Department of Education. There had been increasing media pressure after a number of worrying incidents involving either students or teachers being targeted on social media sites. The National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals (NAPD) now wants Facebook to set up a hotline that will deal directly with requests from schools so that in future ant inappropriate and/or abusive posts can be removed as quickly as possible.

CAO WORRIES. Choosing what to put on your CAO form is always more difficult than you first thought. So if you are still worried about what you wrote or you’ve suddenly decided you need to change direction, don’t worry. There is an Open Evening and CAO Change of Mind Workshop in ITT Tallaght Dublin on the18th of June. For times and more details please ring ahead to Tara Flanagan the Schools Liason Officer on (01)4042000.

ENROLMENT. For those looking into further education in Dublin city. The Ballsbridge College of Further Education (Shelbourne Road, Dublin 4) has a one day enrolment event starting at 10am to 12 noon on the 20th of June. For further details please contact Deputy Principal Ruth O Doherty on (01)6684806.

THE CELTS. No not Celtic FC. We’re talking about Irish folklore. Ever wanted to investigate your own heritage and history? Well from 18.30 – 20.00 on June 20th in Harold’s Cross at Our Lady’s Hospice and Care Services you can enjoy a seminar entitled; Reclaiming Celtic Spiritual Wisdom for Our Times. Here you will listen to the unique wisdom that is often revealed in Celtic story and myth and also how Celtic Spirituality offers a perspective that can help us explore some of the urgent life issues of our age. Contact (01)4068806 for details.

DOCTORS. Over the last five years Ireland has lost many of its most promising graduates. Over 460 young doctors and nurses graduating from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) and UCD will be scouring the country for their internship year. However, many could then leave to pursue their careers overseas. “I wouldn’t like to, but if I have to then it’s definitely a possibility,” said one young woman from Clonmel, Co Tipperary, as she graduated from RCSI with 225 of her classmates. It is a statement echoed by many these days. She goes on to say; “If I can’t earn enough money to keep me going or if there are not enough job opportunities,then of course, yes I would have to go.”

ERRORS. There were two significant errors discovered in the Leaving and Junior Cert exams given earlier in the week that have just come to light. The State Examinations Commission has now acknowledged these errors and said that no one should worry, these mistakes would be ‘taken into account when the papers were marked’. One of the errors, on the Leaving higher maths paper, included an extra figure being given thereby making two answers possible. The second error was on the Junior Cert civil, social and political education paper where the role of the Referendum Commission was described incorrectly.

The minister for Education and Skills, Ruairí Quinn T.D., officially opened two new classrooms at Scoil Naomh Pio, Beaupark, Navan, Co Meath on Friday the 14th. In what was a long overdue move, it was part of the 2012 prefab replacement scheme to replace two prefabs with permanent classrooms that saw Scoil Naomh Pio provided with a grant of over €290,000. The €35 million Prefab Replacement Scheme was first launched by Minister Quinn in March 2012. There will be further funding of €15 million announced earlier this week for the rest of the 2013/2014 calendar.

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June 2013 E-News

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News Feature Education Overview

Education NewsWith graduating students now facing a very uncertain world and one with the toughest employment prospects in Ireland since the 1980s, they are being asked to think outside the box. Whether it seems realistic or not, it is being advised that undergraduates should plan for their careers long before they leave college and, similar to America, they may be judged on what they do outside the lecture hall as much as what they achieve academically..
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Education Overview June 4th

education overviewWith graduating students now facing a very uncertain world and one with the toughest employment prospects in Ireland since the 1980s, they are being asked to think outside the box. Whether it seems realistic or not, it is being advised that undergraduates should plan for their careers long before they leave college and, similar to America, they may be judged on what they do outside the lecture hall as much as what they achieve academically. Tony Donohoe, who is the education director with the employers’ group IBEC, has said: “It is taken as a given that a graduate will have a good degree. So, the employer has to look at other aspects including relevant work experience, voluntary work and activities in college clubs and societies.”

For those sitting the leaving cert, points are at the forefront of students minds right now and the good news is that these have not changed drastically from last year. Many will be pleased to see that some courses have notable decreases. Electronic engineering in NUI Maynooth is down a considerable amount of points; 360 to 320. Engineering at Cork IT down 35 points 345 to 310. Maths at TCD has dropped 20 points to 545. Science is down 10 points to 500. In UCD; both actuarial studies and nursing are down – 5 points each. Best of luck to all.

The Minister for Education and Skills, Ruairí Quinn T.D., has announced a major re-organisation of the country’s higher education sector that includes provision for the creation of new Technological Universities.The announcement follows recommendations solicited by the Higher Education Authority (HEA) to Minister Quinn some time ago. In the HEA’s report, there was a call for consolidation of the Institute of Technology (IT) sector; the set up of a small number of technological universities; the formation of regional clusters between these universities and stronger ITs; implementation of recommendations to rationalise teacher education; as well as the increased sustainability and capacity in the higher education system.

Survey news. The Brightwater Salary Survey for 2013 has positive news for those in the accountancy profession, with a reported and continual rise in salaries across the board and an improvement in business confidence. The report also found that 60% of new positions in the financial services sector are newly created roles with organisations more confident in their hiring. The survey goes on to highlight an increase in the need for not only junior accounting staff but also part qualified accountants and a high demand for temporary and contract accountancy professionals. For anyone working in industry, specific experience can lead to a higher salary, particularly for those with a background in FMCG, manufacturing, gaming and/or pharmaceutical sectors. The report found that a continued requirement for candidates with strong IFRS, US GAAP, systems implementation and change management experience.

Google and Trinity College to Team Up in Computer Training. It’s been ten years since Google established its European headquarters in Dublin, and to celebrate the landmark, the computing behemoth will be teaming up with Trinity College to provide computer training for a thousand secondary school teachers. The training scheme will also include the provision of 1,000 Raspberry Pis, enabling users in schools to work on coding skills and help to fill Ireland’s much-touted IT/ programming skills gap. Fast Track to IT estimate that there are already 4,500 job vacancies available in ICT in Ireland, making the sector one of the most attractive for job seekers. A final aspect to the project will see a national coding competition launched alongside the skills and equipment provision.

UCD Summer Schools Get Underway. UCD will be hosting a series of summer schools for 5th year students starting on the 3rd of June, enabling students to get an idea of the courses they might be contemplating, and a taste of what a longer course might involve. The largely on-campus courses deal in a huge range of subjects offered at UCD, and also feature more general activities such as September’s ‘Higher Options Conference’. The bulk of departments will host their summer school events in the coming week. Advanced booking is required.

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Education Overview May 29th

education newsLeaving Certificate Nearing Start Date. Ireland’s youngsters face some challenging exams in the coming weeks, with the Leaving Certificate underway from the 5th to the 21st of June. Things kick off with the first subject – English – on the morning of the 5th, with linguistics students working on niche languages Italian and Japanese the last out of the exam halls late on the afternoon of the 21st. The Applied Leaving Certificate exams take place alongside the more academic equivalent, but finish by the 13th of the month.  There are a host of useful online resources to help with study, including some great tips from Cork News on studying and exams technique, and a wide range of resources for both revision and the parents of students that can be tracked down in The full timetable is national, to avoid the leaking of exam papers, and can be downloaded here, though participants should be sure to check local requirements through their examining school.

Intelligent Systems Summit to Take Place in Derry. June the 11th and 12th will see the Intelligent Systems Submit (ISS) take place at the City Hotel in Derry. The event is set to be open to the public as part of Derry’s year as British City of Culture, and will give insights into the use of information technology in advanced ways, such as self-organizing and self-adapting systems. They’ll also be a strong emphasis on coding, giving young programmers the chance to speak with and learn from experts and from their peers. They’ll also be a strong emphasis on the medical side of technological development, including computational routes to clinical diagnosis and technical advances in neuroscience. The summit takes place in collaboration with the University of Ulster’s Intelligent Systems Research Centre.

American University SAT Entrance Tests. Those looking to head across the pond for educational reasons in the near future will be taking the requisite SAT tests in Dublin and Waterford on the 1st of June. Exams are typically taken by fifth and sixth year Irish students, and offer the luxury of unrestricted retakes. Still, best of luck to all with global aspirations first time around.

Foot In The Door Employment Event for Cork. The Ambassador Hotel in Cork will host a ‘Foot in the Door’ event on the 30th of May, a network event run by the Contact Centre Management Association. 120 plus jobs will be on offer at the event with companies like UPC, Atos and SouthWestern in attendance, while those on the look out for information and education resources can attend a series of seminars taking place throughout the day. You can book a place here. More upcoming open days and information events are listed on the open days page.

Junior Certificate Reform Information Sessions Open To Parents. The Department of Education and Skills has opened regional information sessions involving Ruairí Quinn T.D, designed to inform parents on up and coming changes in the Junior Cycle. Events will take place in ten different counties, with Dublin hosting three events. Full regional schedules for information sessions can be found here.

Government to Discuss Second Pre-School Year. Discussions into a second state-provided year of pre-school for toddlers are underway, with Ruairí Quinn suggesting that no change is imminent, but pushing for a more in-depth debate. Quinn argues that the second year will have a ‘dramatic impact’ on the life development of children, and intends to push for an introduction by reallocating funds rather than through a new budget.

James Hendicott

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IADT Evening Courses

iadt evening coursesThe Institute of Art, Design and technology in Dun Laoghaire are offering a range of courses to adults and part time learners. Many of these courses can be used as a platform, leading on to undergraduate or postgraduate programmes in the area studied. They can also be studied on a standalone basis for those seeking to improve personal or work performance skills. Many of the courses are specialising in the emerging technologies and focus on areas of design, business and technology sometimes blending these together. The college facilities and tutors are of a high standard and anyone considering studying in IADT can make use of an excellent library, modern computer labs and high quality sports facilities.

Some of the evening courses offered by the IADT are listed below.

• Certificate in Creative WritingCertificate in Cyberpsychology
• Certificate in Enterprise Development
• Certificate in Human Computer Interaction
• Certificate in App Development (Android)
• Certificate in Online Business Trading
• Certificate in Sport Psychology
• Crafts and Hobby Courses

Application can be made directly to the college and the next deadline is late August for the Autumn semester.

For more details about the Institute of Art and Design, Dun Laoghaire you can view their course and college profile on at

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Education Council aims for more Equitable Access to Higher Education

eu education council meetingEurope’s Education Ministers have adopted Conclusions on the social dimension of higher education. The EU Council of Education Ministers in Brussels was chaired by Irish Minister for Education and Skills, Ruairi Quinn T.D.

At the second and final Education Council to be held under the Irish Presidency the European Education Ministers focussed on the importance of securing more equitable access to higher education. The Conclusions adopted build on those discussed in May 2010 under the Spanish Presidency on the social dimension of education and training generally.

At the Council meeting, Minister Quinn updated his European colleagues on the progress of negotiations on ”Erasmus for All”. Delegates also discussed the Youth Employment Initiative.

During the meeting Ministers debated “Ensuring a teaching profession of the highest quality to underpin the achievement of better learning outcomes” and were addressed by international experts, Pasi Sahlberg, Finnish Education Expert, and Christine Blower, President of the European Trade Union Committee for Education andGeneral Secretary of the National Union of Teachers.

Afterwards, Minister Quinn said: “I am particularly pleased that we have adopted these Conclusions today. There are still too many capable students not participating in higher education due to their socio-economic circumstances, insufficient systems of support and guidance, and other obstacles. As well as increasing the risk of unemployment and social exclusion, this represents an unnecessary waste of human potential. The Conclusions adopted today will address this and bring benefits to societies across the EU.”

Ireland holds the Presidency of the Council of the EU until 30th June 2013.

A number of legislative priorities in education have been identified for the course of the Presidency. These are:

  • Regulation establishing “Erasmus for All”
  • New Directive to amend Directive 2005/36 on the recognition of professional qualifications
  • Regulation on the European Social Fund (ESF) and the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF)
  • Decision on the Strategic Innovation Agenda of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) & Regulation amending 2008 Regulation which established the EIT.
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Lab Technician Courses

lab technician coursesA laboratory technician works in a laboratory, assisting scientific and technical staff with day to day duties. Scientific laboratory technicians are responsible for laboratory-based tasks, which include sampling, testing, measuring, recording and analysing results in biological, chemical, physical and life sciences. They also provide all the required technical support to enable the laboratory to function effectively, whilst adhering to correct procedures and health and safety guidelines.

The actual nature of the work will depend upon the organisation. If you work for a local authority, like a health board or a county council, the work may involve analysing food samples to consider prosecution and to protect public health, or to monitor and analyse public water etc., in the case of the latter.

Tasks typically involve:

• Performing laboratory tests in order to produce reliable and precise data

• Carrying out routine tasks accurately and following strict methodologies to carry out analyses

• Preparing specimens and samples

• Constructing, maintaining and operating standard laboratory equipment

• Ensuring the laboratory is well-stocked and resourced

• Recording and sometimes interpreting results to present to senior colleagues

• Using computers and performing mathematical calculations for the preparation of graphs

• Keeping up to date with technical developments, especially those which can save time and improve reliability

Educational Requirements:

Laboratory Technicians are required to have a third level qualification in a relevant science discipline. If you want to ‘test the water’ before committing to a four year honours degree programme – Sligo IT run a two-year Higher Certificate Science course. This is designed as a foundation course in science and builds key skill sets in analytical science related to current demand in the economy. The course provides students with a core foundation in applied science and has an emphasis on hands-on practical laboratory science. There are elective choices in year one which allows students to experience thematic areas developed in year two. In the second year of the course, students are allowed the flexibility to follow an applied science theme in either biology or chemistry.

Graduates will have strong analytical science skills and will be suitable for progression onto ordinary degree (level 7) and honours degree (level 8) courses in pharmaceutical science, medical biotechnology, environmental science, occupational safety and health. Graduates are employable as technical scientists in a wide range of industries and government sectors including the pharmaceutical, biopharmaceutical, medical device, medical diagnostic, food and beverage, and biotechnology sectors.
lab technician courses
The CIT / UCC joint BSc (Honours) Degree in Biomedical Science is one of only three Honours degree programmes in the Republic of Ireland, which are recognised by the Academy of Medical Laboratory Sciences (professional body) as enabling graduates to practise in hospitals in the State. Biomedical Science is a continually changing dynamic profession and involves study of the diverse areas of medical science including Biochemistry, Microbiology, Cellular Pathology, Haematology and Transfusion Science.

There are numerous Science degrees on offer via the CAO entry system, should you wish pursue a career in this area – whether as a laboratory technician, in the pharmaceutical, medical, food/beverage or biotechnology areas, amongst others.

For those who have a relevant science degree and are interested in becoming skilled as a laboratory technician, course providers such as Biologic offer laboratory courses such as “Laboratory Management Systems” and “Good Laboratory Practice” courses. These courses will also be of interest to those already working in the field to upgrade existing skills and learn some new ones. These courses can be seen at

The government continues to promote and encourage students to undertake science degrees as there is currently a labour shortage in this area. Remember, opportunities exist with government bodies, research institutions, hospitals, engineering/manufacturing firms, and processing industries – both in Ireland and internationally.

Author: Fiona McBennett

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Nuig Adult Education Open Evening

nuig open eveningNUI Galway are holding an information event for adult learners on Tuesday 14th May. The event will take place in the evening from 6pm to 8pm in the Orbsen building on the NUIG campus.
Anyone interested in adult education and evening courses in the coming months will find a wealth of information on the many subject areas offered by the college.

These subject areas include;
• Community and Family Studies
• Early Childhood studies and Practice
• Environmental Sustainability
• Languages
• Gemmology
• Information Technology
• Innovation Management
• International Business
• Lean Systems
• Medical Device Science
• Psychology
• Social Care
• Software Engineering
• Education and Training

For more details on the event, contact the Adult Education Office at (091) 495241

More details on the courses offered can be seen at

Other open days and events can be seen at

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