CAO Change of Mind

cao change of mindThe July 1st deadline to change CAO course choices is approaching and offers the opportunity to re-examine the options available to students for the years ahead. Now is the time to really identify the courses of interest & do some research on courses and colleges available, the outcome of poor choices can mean courses are dropped out of in the first year or never completed. This has an effect on any future studies where grants and fees are involved and can leave the student short on options in the years ahead.

Course choices will benefit from planning and research. Like all journeys with an ultimate goal, preparation is vital. Most students at this stage are aware of their options regarding courses depending on examination results but it can be useful to revisit the CAO website that has information on all courses available with a useful search facility that enables the user to refine their choices based on specific criteria. Study and course content needs to excite and motivate the student especially when they are not under direct supervision.

Self-motivation is essential to college life and if the wrong course is being followed, walking away from it all or spending more time in the student bar than lectures can be the outcome. It is best not to project too far ahead to what a career path may hold, it is far more important to study subjects that encourages the student to keep going back for more based on their own specific interests.

Suitable Courses
Between study sessions and Leaving Cert completion, the student should ask themselves some soul searching questions. They should ask themselves what motivates them. Are they fascinated by science? Mesmerised by the arts? Inspired by technology? Whichever questions are answered should lead into the right course being chosen.

Naturally CAO points are major part of the consideration but sometimes it is possible to pursue the course of choice at colleges where there are lower points required, so it is worth looking at all options outside of the preferred ones.

Even if there is confidence in the choices that have been made, it is wise to review them before a final decision, as new courses can be added and old ones discontinued. There are many more courses available to explore since the CAO handbook was printed.
The wrong course choice can be costly. Dropout rates are high for those studying unsuitable courses and the financial impact can be far reaching. If a student drops out or fails exams in the first year and it is decided to start a new course the following academic year, it will cost another registration fee and another course fee, each costing thousands of euro. That is a large price to pay for not spending some extra time making the right choices.

Once suitable courses are selected, they must be validated against whether the student fulfils the entry requirements, is studying the right subjects and of course the necessary CAO points will need to be achieved. Visit prospective colleges and take advantage of open days. There are always career guidance counsellors on hand to talk to. It is helpful to discuss options with respected adults and friends or professionals.

Secondary to choosing a course is choosing a college. When choosing a college, some factors to consider might include the following;

  • College location. Is there a higher cost of study at the chosen college in comparison to other colleges offering the same third level course? – e.g living expenses are higher in the capital than in rural areas.
  • Is student accommodation easily obtainable? e.g is there on-campus accommodation available to first year students, is it possible to commute to a college if reasonably affordable accommodation cannot be found?
  • What are the academic achievements of the college? e.g is the college regarded as having a well regarded department in your chosen field of study? (This can be part of a future employers selection criteria for new hires).
  • Does the college offer job placement programmes to help students obtain a job after graduation?
  • Are there good sporting and social events on campus? This is important for new students adjusting to college life and making new friends as they may be selecting a different college to other friends from secondary school.

When all necessary research has been done and a short list is made, list the final choices on the CAO record in order of preference. The video tutorial below from the CAO ( will assist in this process.

The change of mind period is one that is of the utmost benefit for students and if used wisely, will allow college to get off to a great start with a student brimming with confidence, assured that the course they have chosen will lead to an interesting and challenging time ahead.

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Courses in Psychology

psychology coursesPsychology is the study of human behaviour and mental processes. It is, therefore, as varied a field as human behaviour.  Choosing to study psychology opens up a multitude of opportunities to work in a diverse range of specialities from research based work to counselling psychology.

People undertaking a psychology course should be aware that psychology is, fundamentally, a science.  Many people believe that is centred entirely on the human psyche and behaviour when in fact there is vast areas of psychology that deal primarily with biological studies.  An undergraduate student of psychology is expected to master the more mundane areas, such as research and statistics, as well as prove they have a comprehensive understanding of the human eye, ear, brain and central nervous system before they even begin to study the more popular areas of forensic, abnormal and social psychology.
Psychology courses in Ireland
However, psychology is still an extremely popular choice of for students because it offers excellent levels of employability and the opportunity to specialise in a variety of areas.  A downfall of this variety, however, is the tendency for students to change their minds frequently about the area the wish to specialise in. It is important for students to make an informed decision once they have finished their undergraduate degree about area they wish to specialise in. Indecisiveness can damage future employment opportunities.

The main areas of psychology that people choose to specialise in are as follows:

Biopsychology: concentrates on the study of the relationship between the brain and behaviour.
Clinical psychology: this is the largest are to specialise in.  It is focused around researching, diagnosing and treating mental illnesses.
Developmental psychology:  the study of psychological development from infancy to adolescence but can also include geriatric development.
Industrial-organisational psychology: psychologists in this area develop ways of applying psychological principles to improve productivity and behaviour in the workplace.
Health psychology: concerned with understanding how psychological factors can affect physical health.
Educational psychology: use psychological principles to help understand and improve how people are educated.

There are many ways to begin studying psychology.  Foundation courses are available at many colleges.  Although these courses do not provide any kind of qualification to begin practicing, they do provide participants with an informed idea of what they should expect to encounter should they decide to carry on to undergraduate level.  Psychology is also a popular subject for students studying for a Bachelor of Arts degree.  In this format, it is known as psychological studies and is combined with another subject.  Most universities offer the option of doing a year long conversion course upon completion of a BA in psychological studies to those who wish to continue on to pure psychology, although this is usually only offered to a select few students. The quickest way to become a psychologist is to go for an undergraduate degree in psychology.  The vast majority of career opportunities in psychology, however, do require further postgraduate training.

When considering a career in psychology, one must be prepared for many years of study and so it is important to make an informed decision.  However, with good employment opportunities and an extensive choice of specialisation, it is an area where hard work can reap excellent rewards.

To see a selection of psychology courses in Ireland view the following link:

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Occupational First Aid Level 5 (5N1207) No Longer Meeting HSA Requirement

HSA Occupational HealthFrom 1 September 2017, the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) will no longer recognise the QQI component (award code 5N1207) as meeting the requirements for occupational first aid in all workplaces. This change has arisen from the HSA’s decision to recognise the Prehospital Emergency Care Council (PHECC) First Aid Response Education and Training standard (FAR). The HSA statement about the transition to FAR can be found here.

The HSA will recognize training and assessment relating to QQI’s Level 5 OFA (5N1207) that took place up to 31 August 2017. That recognition will be for a 2 year period. (Please note that it is possible that the QQI component certificate could be dated post 31 August 2017 e.g. October or December 2017).

Refresher certificates issued by recognised training providers up to 31 August 2017 will also be recognised by the HSA for a 2 year period. Thereafter existing occupational first aiders can apply to have their qualifications individually assessed by a participating PHECC recognised institution (RI) in accordance with the RI’s Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) policy and procedures.

Status of QQI component in OFA

The QQI Level 5 component will remain in place and available for certification until further notice. QQI is establishing a process for reviewing award standards and a decision on retaining or deactivating the Level 5 OFA component will be taken in that context and due notice given to providers. The Level 5 OFA component is named in the following major awards:

5M2009 Early Childhood Care and Education
5M2083 Hospitality Operations
5M2110 Security Studies
5M2181 Applied Social Studies
5M3782 Health Service Skills
5M4339 Healthcare Support
5M4349 Nursing Studies
5M4732 Youth Work
5M5011 Tourism with Business
5M5146 Sports, Recreation and Exercise
5M5148 Outdoor Sport and Recreation

Impact for Providers and Learners

Providers with validated programmes leading to the above major awards, or where 5N1207 is used as residual credit, should consider its continued use in their programme in light of the HSA decision. They should also ensure that, under their procedures around information to learners, they advise learners of the HSA decision and its potential impact for them in the workplace. Providers who may be considering submitting a programme for validation for Level 5 Occupational First Aid are advised to consider the suitability of doing so in light of the HSA decision.

If you have particular questions around this matter, please submit your query via QHelp.

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Leaving Cert Study Tips – To Cram or Not to Cram

Cramming for Leaving CertWith the Leaving Cert and other state exams fast approaching, many students will find themselves facing that age-old, time versus workload dilemma. Faced with this problem, the popular solution of ‘cramming’ is the answer for many and whilst it is not an ideal approach to exam success, it can bring varying degrees of reward if done correctly. See some tips below for some cramming tips and study advice..

Balance – As in most areas of life, balance is important. When studying intensively it is vital to take short breaks to relieve stress and allow the information to sink in. Eating healthily, getting some exercise & fresh air and getting good sleep nightly should all play an important role in study leading up to exam-time.

Plan – As the old adage goes ’fail to plan, plan to fail’. Check your exam time-table, plan the most effective study times in the days leading up to the exams, any free evening hours and on the days you don’t have any exams. Create a study plan, marking out the times clearly for study based on subject & time per subject. Try not to spend too much time on any one subject at a time. Changing a subject after a few hours can be as good as a rest for a beleaguered brain.

Notes – Highlight the important points from notes or textbooks. Jot the most important of these down in point format using Flash Cards or small sheets of paper. Try to memorise these important points by rewriting them or saying them aloud. It has been shown that we need to use information at least 7 times before it becomes logged to long-term memory. This can be done by repeating (aloud if possible) or rewriting important points without looking at the original text.

Memorise – Memorisation techniques are another highly effective way of recalling important information at exam-time. One such technique is to write a series of points on a sheet of paper or flash card. Highlight the first letter of each point and create a rhyme or statement as an acronym from these letters. The more nonsensical & humorous the better as it will be remembered easily. Now try reciting the points based on the acronym created.

Sleep – Numerous studies have shown the effects of sleep deprivation on cognitive function. Not only will memory be impaired but general mood, energy levels and reasoning will all suffer. So don’t be tempted to pull an all-nighter. If you have to limit sleep, try to get the most you possibly can as it will be important for stamina throughout exam-time.

Positive Thinking – Many things come down to perspective. It is easy to get carried away at exam time and become anxious about performance and the importance of good results. Try to keep the mood upbeat by listening to some positive music or having a laugh with friends and family. A positive mental attitude will not only stand to you at exam time but may be more important than any exam results when the time comes to step onto the career ladder.

The tips above may be helpful for exam success, however the most important thing to remember is that the exams are simply another stepping stone on the route to further study & future career. If you trip on that step then there are plenty of other routes available as shown by many successful people. Alternatively bear in mind that even with excellent results there are plenty of other steps ahead and choosing a suitable college course should not be influenced too heavily by academic results but also by genuine interests and aptitudes. Best of luck to all those sitting state exams in the weeks ahead!

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Summer Camps 2017

Summer Schools for StudentsWith the summer sun beaming down (well sometimes at least) and free time soon to be in abundance for many students, the need arises for activities to pass the time. Options include part time work, travel, volunteering or education activities. Summer Camps are one such activity and there are a number of them taking bookings for the weeks ahead. See below for some upcoming summer camps taking place around the country..

  • The Institute of Art, Design and Technology in Dun Laoghaire, County Dublin are running a range of short term Summer courses starting in June. The courses are from 1 to three weeks in duration, depending on the subject. More details available at
  • UCC Summer School operates on UCC campus  from 19th June until 4th August for teenagers between 12 and 16 years old. Students will undertake four different modules during the week under the guidance of our qualified module instructors. More details at
  • Anyone 4 Science was established in 2005 to provide fun hands-on science and engineering activities for children and teenagers. The teen camps for 2017 start on 12th June & will be running between the times 9.30am – 2.30pm, Monday to Friday. More information at
  • Maynooth Summer School are running a range of camps starting on Monday 12th to Friday 16th June, 9am to 4pm daily. More information can be found at
  • NUI Galway is holding a series of Summer Schools for students interested in studying at university. This is an excellent opportunity for prospective students to get a real taste of university life and to enjoy a wide range of hands-on practical activities. More information available at
  • University of Limerick are hosting a Nursing and Midwifery Summer School. A fun and interactive two day camp suitable for post-junior cert, transition and fifth year students, where they can iscover more about Nursing and Midwifery as career choices. More info at
  • Letterkenny Institute of Technology will hold an exciting Computing Summer Camp for secondary school students throughout Donegal. Three Computing Summer Camps will take place from the 26th to the 29th of June. More information online at
  • Cork Institute of Technology are hosting the CIT Enterprise Camp where 60 young entrepreneurs in Cork City and County will learn entrepreneurial skills over a 5 day period. Application deadline is 12th June and more information can be gotten at
  • The Entrepreneurial & Innovation Summer Camp at AIT Summer School will be held on campus at Athlone Institute of Technology, 19th – 23rd June 2017, from 9:30am to 4:30 pm. More information available at

There are other summer camps and activities running in many education institutes nationwide, so if none of the above matches your requirements, why not contact your local colleges and training providers to find out if they have something similar in your area.

For more events and open days view our Education Events page at

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Springboard Plus 2017

Springboard 2017Springboard which was first launched as part of the Government’s Job’s Initiative in 2011, is a strategy which targets funding of free higher education courses to enable jobseekers to upskill or reskill in areas where there are identified labour market skills shortages or employment opportunities.

Springboard courses range from levels 6 to 9 on the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ) . Courses are delivered in areas such as ICT, manufacturing, international financial services, hospitality and entrepreneurial/business start-up skills. Work placements are offered on almost all of the courses.

The ICT skills conversion programme is being provided as part of the joint Government-Industry ICT Action Plan 2014 – 2018. The programme is targeted at jobseekers who already hold a level 8 or equivalent qualification and have the capacity and underlying aptitude, to undergo an intensive full-time programme of study and work experience, to acquire honours degree level ICT programming skills. The ICT skills conversion programme is also available to eligible participants on a part-time, two year option.

Springboard courses and the ICT skills conversion programme are now run as a joint initiative under the banner brand Springboard+.

Springboard+ is funded by the National Training Fund with co-funding from the European Union under the European Social Fund, as part of the ESF Programme for Employability, Inclusion and Learning 2014-2020. No fees are charged to participants.

Springboard+ 2017 which incorporates Springboard courses and the full-time and part-time ICT skills conversion programme, provides for 6,471 places on 198 courses in public and private educational institutions throughout Ireland. All courses selected for funding under Springboard+ 2017 are in areas of identified enterprise skills needs. Courses were selected, following a competitive call for proposals, by an independent evaluation panel using published criteria that included value for money, flexible delivery, engagement with industry and skills relevance. Courses approved for funding in 2017 will be in the following skills areas: • ICT • Manufacturing (including the biopharma sector • Financial services • Entrepreneurship • The hospitality sector.

Expansion of the eligibility criteria for Springboard+ 2017: Under Springboard+ 2017, the eligibility criteria has been expanded to include homemakers and those in employment including those in self-employment who wish to upskill, reskill or cross skill in the Biopharma/Med Tech sector and those in employment, or self-employment in the ICT sector who wish to upskill from a level 7 to a level 8 qualification.
To date over 35,000 free higher education places have been provided under Springboard+

How to Apply
Further information on Springboard+ 2017 including entry requirements and eligibility criteria are available on the dedicated information and applications website: Applications are submitted online and decisions around the award of places on the programmes are a matter for individual course providers.

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Emotional Intelligence – Your EQ

emotional intelligence - eqThe customary formula for high grades and success is school plus hard work. This was and is seen as the winning principle that we continue to replicate in our school and college system. However, in a world where everybody adheres to this path to success; how do we explain how some people are just more successful, less stressed and happier than others? Aside from luck, there is a very real and plausible explanation. Many of us have read or heard of Emotional Intelligence; well this ‘EQ’ or the lack of it can explain different variations of success and emotional well-being.

Emotional Intelligence, often called EQ as opposed to IQ is our ability to handle emotions and to cope with the highs and lows that life throws at us. David Goleman, the author of Emotional Intelligence, suggests that there are five aspects of emotional intelligence and that one can check how emotionally intelligent they are, by referring to these:

  1. Emotional Attunement: How aware you are of your emotions and how these affect your life.
  2. Emotional Management: How much you are in control of your emotions and having the ability to make sure they don’t overwhelm you.
  3. Self-motivation: This measures how good you are at delaying gratification; in other words can you prioritise and do important things first for bigger and more important rewards.
  4. Empathy: Are you in tune with the emotions of others?
  5. Relationships with others: This is a skill in handling relationships without becoming overwhelmed by them.

There is an ever-growing large body of research asserting that emotional intelligence is critical to people’s academic, work and life success. In looking at the level of work/school place absenteeism that is related to stress, we realise the amount of people that are not capable of managing their emotions. It has been found that children with poor emotional skills struggle to make friends, have poor attention in class and have feelings of frustration. This often leads them to be hot-tempered and encourages negative social behaviour. In the case of leadership, whether political or in the workplace, the most effective leaders have high emotional intelligence and have the most productive workers/followers. Teachers with a higher EQ get higher grades from essentially happier students. These findings demonstrate the importance of promoting our emotional quotient – whether in the work place or learning environment.

emotional intelligence

In relation to teaching and learning, students who learn in an emotionally intelligent way have awareness as to why they are learning; they recognise the importance of learning and they will connect to the learning material on an emotional level. Our retention of material or events improves when there is an emotional attachment to it. Developing Emotional Intelligence will also remove barriers to learning that we build as we grow up.

Renowned psychologist, Daniel Goleman says: ‘Emotional Intelligence is a master aptitude; it is a capacity that profoundly affects all other abilities, either facilitating or interfering with them.’ Perhaps it is time our education system paid serious heed to this ‘Master Aptitude’ especially in the light of the following: there is a rise in people presenting with anxiety and social phobias; students are increasingly turning to substance abuse to cope with their emotions; there is an alarming increase in suicides and stress-related illnesses in the work place.

According to related research the time is right for EQ to become as important as IQ in the minds of students, parents, employers and educators. Afterall, it is our EQ that determines and contributes to peoples’ success and emotional well-being. By bringing Emotional Quotient lessons into the mainstream classroom or workplace, students are taught ways of being that are conducive to an emotionally healthier life. It is also now proven that students who learn in an emotionally intelligent way produce better grades that are reflective of real knowledge observation. In relation to employers and employees, those who work in an environment characterised by emotional intelligence will be more productive and happier in their work place, reducing stress-related absenteeism and illnesses.

The increasing interest in Emotional Intelligence is one of the most exciting developments in recent years. Unfortunately, up until now, the power and impact of emotion has been ignored, and therefore children and adults have been unable to reach their true potential. Emotional Intelligence, if it is fully embraced, will assist in helping people feel fulfilled, emotionally resilient and capable of managing their emotions, that otherwise might overwhelm them and others.

Emotional illiteracy causes a lot more suffering compared to educational illiteracy.  However, the encouraging news is: whilst we cannot alter our IQ, we can continually work on our Emotional Quotient to improve it.

Author: Catriona Lowry

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What is YouthReach

youthreachIf you have left school without any formal qualifications, the Youthreach programme can provide you with opportunities for basic education, personal development, vocational training and work experience.

The programme is generally full-time, although part-time courses can be arranged. You can concentrate on a core training area of your choice but basic subjects, such as English, maths and life skills, are generally covered by all trainees.

Opportunities to improve literacy and numeracy are available at all Youthreach centres.

How Youthreach works

The course generally lasts from 1 to 2 years, although it can be flexible, depending on your individual needs. If you complete the basic training successfully, you will be awarded a Foundation Certification from Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) or the Junior Certificate. Having completed a Foundation Programme, you may continue to a Progression Programme. This will give you the opportunity to progress to the Leaving Certificate Applied course or a higher-level QQI award or you can choose to continue other skills training, such as an apprenticeship course.

The courses take place in Youthreach centres managed by Education and Training Boards (ETBs) and SOLAS Community Training Centres. Generally, Youthreach centres are open for 35 hours per week (9 a.m. – 4.30 p.m., Monday to Friday).

If you qualify for Youthreach, you may also be eligible for the Back to Education Initiative.

Education and Training Boards

Since 1 July 2013, Education and Training Boards (ETBs) replaced Vocational Educational Committees (VECs). All services provided by VECs will continue to be provided by ETBs. FÁS training centres will be transferred to ETBs on a phased basis with the establishment of SOLAS.

The criteria you must meet to access the Youthreach programme depends on whether you apply to a Youthreach centre managed by an Education and Training Board (ETB) or a Community Training Centre.

ETB Youthreach programme

To be eligible for Youthreach provided by your local ETB, you should be between 15 and 20 years of age. You must be unemployed and an early school leaver without any vocational training and who has not attempted the Leaving Certificate. Some exceptions can be made to this rule, for example if you are a lone parent.

Community Training Centre Youthreach programme

To be eligible for Youthreach provided by your local Community Training Centre, you should be between 16 and 21 years of age. However, young people under the age of 25 who are disadvantaged and unemployed may attend the programme with agreement from SOLAS.

The training on offer varies from centre to centre, often depending on the facilities available. If you have an interest in a particular career, you should look around for a centre offering a suitable course rather than applying automatically to the centre nearest to you.

Courses are free and trainees aged over 16 receive a weekly allowance. You will get a travel allowance if you have to travel 5 km or more to the centre. You may also qualify for free childcare and a meal allowance – you should check with the centre.

The 2015/16 weekly allowances are as follows:
Trainee(s) maximum payment per week
16 – 17 years €40
18 years and over €160.00 (with some exceptions)

If you are over 18 years of age and you are currently getting a social welfare payment of more than €160, you will continue to get the higher amount while you are on Youthreach as long as you are eligible. If you were getting a reduced age-related Jobseeker’s Allowance (JA) before starting Youthreach any means that were deducted from your JA will also be deducted from your training allowance. This also applies to people getting a reduced age-related basic Supplementary Welfare Allowance (SWA).

Youthreach courses are held year-round and you can apply to join a course at any time.

Contact your local Youthreach centre or Community Training Centre and talk to staff about your training needs and interests. You can also contact your local employment services office or ETB. Staff members are available at these centres to help you with application forms if necessary.

Information provided by citizens Information Board © reproduced under Licence

Youthreach Website:

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Choosing a CAO College

choosing a collegeWith 7 universities, 14 Institutes of Technology, 5 Colleges of Education and various Independent Colleges to choose from; the CAO list of colleges can be overwhelming when you are trying to make a decision. Let’s have a look at some things to remember when you are making your decision that will help make the process of choosing that bit easier.

It may sound basic, but the first thing to keep in mind when you are choosing a college is what it is that you actually want to study. Don’t pick a college just because your friends are going; think of the subject that you want to study and the job you would like to have in the future and try to pick a college that offers the best course in that area. There are plenty of colleges that are best for particular fields of study such as IADT in Dublin for art and design, the Colleges of Education such as St. Patrick’s for teaching, Institutes of Technology for business, engineering, science.

Research has shown that those students who did their homework when choosing a college were less likely to drop out in first year, so browse the college websites and go to the various college open days that will be on during the year. Check out the college facilities such as the library and sports facilities as well as what clubs and societies are available to join.

Take into account the location of the college and the cost of living involved in studying there; will you be able to live at home or will you have to move out? Will you be able to live on campus or will you be looking for accommodation nearby? A college in a big city or near a tourist destination will be mean more expensive accommodation so make sure to go through your budget first and be clear on what you can afford or see if you are entitled to a student grant.

Students can often fall into the trap of picking a course based on its title while failing to look in detail at the course content, only to find that when they start, the course is not suited to them. Find out the answers to practical questions about the course. What are the hours involved? Will there be Erasmus or work placement involved? Is there a tutor/mentor system in place? It can be a good idea to contact a past student or a course co-ordinator to ask any questions you may have.

Think of your future job and look at the links various colleges have with businesses and industries that are relevant to your chosen course and career. DCU has a INTRA Internship Programme where students gain paid, relative work experience as part of their degree courses. A 2011 survey showed that 90% of students who graduated with a degree in DCU the previous year were in employment or further study; a higher rate than the national average. Tralee IT has close links with businesses in the Shannon Developments Kerry Technology Park as well as hosting research centres for global companies.

Trinity College Dublin currently ranks as the top university in Ireland, followed by University College Dublin in second place and University College Cork in third. CAO rates DCU, Dundalk IT, NUIG and Tralee IT as being colleges that stand out in terms of location, research and campus commitment to the well-being of students.

However, regardless of where a college is ranked in any list, at the end of the day the best college for you will be the one that ticks most of your boxes with regard to everything that you are looking for from your college experience. So why not get researching and improve your chances of college success with a well educated decision!

View CAO Colleges on

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Distance Learning Courses

distance learningWould you like to do an interest course or study for a qualification to improve your career options – but think it’s just not possible due to the ever increasing demands on your time? With a full-time job, childcare, commuting and the rest, there just aren’t enough hours in the day to attend even a part-time course.

If this sounds like you, then Distance Learning may be the answer. Think of it, you could study for that degree in History you’ve always wanted to do, or get that childcare qualification you need – at a pace that suits you and from the comfort of your own home. The only requirement is a personal computer (in most cases) and some degree of self discipline.

Distance Learning Ireland

How does Distance Learning work?
Distance Learning is at is sounds – you learn at a distance from the college, on your own and in your own time. While it is the same as any other course in that you read course material and write assignments; it is different in that the course material is sent to you through the post or online, and attendance is limited to occasional seminars and workshops. If this all sounds good so far but you are worried by the thought of being completely alone in this endeavour, don’t be! Distance learning is also ‘supported learning’ in that you will usually have a tutor assigned to you -who is available to provide help, give feedback and grade assignments.

What type of qualification will I get?
Distance Learning through a recognised education provider generally works on a modular basis. This means that for every module or section of a course you study, you receive credits. Once you have achieved a sufficient amount of credits you will be awarded a Certificate, Diploma or Degree. The level of qualification you achieve and the length of time it takes is up to you. You could work towards a degree over 3 or 4 years, or simply study subjects that appeal to you on a more leisurely basis.

Distance Learning Providers
Since Adult Education has become a booming business in Ireland, there are now more Distance Learning colleges and courses available than ever before. Some of the more mainstream providers are as follows:

This college has a long and distinguished history as one of the leading providers of Distance Learning Education in Ireland. Offers nationally recognised QQI certification. Has a dedicated team of student advisors and tutors.

The Open University

Probably the best known, and for a long time the only provider of Distance Learning, the Open University offers over 600 courses in a variety of areas. Recognised worldwide, courses are available in a variety of fields from Humanities to Engineering.


Perhaps the Irish version of the Open University but on a smaller scale, Oscail was set up and is accredited by Dublin City University. They currently offer diplomas and degrees in Nursing, Arts, Science and IT, in addition to some post graduate options.

Many Universities now offer some Distance Learning options as part of their adult learning programmes. NUIG for example, offers a Diploma/Degree in Social Care (amongst others), while the National College or Ireland, offers a Degree in Human Resource Management. If there is a specific course you are interested in, your local University is often a good first port of call.

Private Colleges
There are a number private Distance Learning Colleges in Ireland, offering a whole range of courses and options. Some like the College of Progressive Education are specialised in the type of courses they offer (Childcare/Montessori), while others offer much wider range of options.

When choosing a Distance Learning course, it is important to consider the following:

Is Distance Learning for you? – are you the type of person who can study at home under your own steam? It will involve you managing your own study, setting yourself goals and deadlines, and this isn’t for everyone.

What do you want from a Distance Learning course? Are you studying a subject out of interest, or hoping to gain a qualification? This is very important distinction to make when choosing a college and course, as not all courses on offer are accredited. Make sure to check this out before spending your money. lists a wide variety of Distance Learning Courses on the following page –

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PLC Courses – Benefits and Application Procedures

plc courses early application benefitsWith much of the focus at this time of year being on CAO applications, it is easy to forget that there are other ways to access education after leaving secondary school. PLC courses are a fantastic opportunity for those who may have an interest in a certain subject area but are concerned that CAO points may hold them back.

PLC courses are not applied for through the CAO system but instead the student applies directly to the college they wish to attend. It is free to apply and successful applicants are selected  by way of an interview. These interviews are often informal and give the student a chance to talk about their particular interest in the course they are applying for.

Many PLC courses are a great opportunity to sample a course before proceeding onto higher education. Most courses facilitate the student entering the work place on completion of study. The option will often be there for students to gain entry to Institutes of Technology and Universities with courses such as pre-nursing and pre-engineering now widely available.

PLCs are offered by Education and Training Boards (ETBs) & also private colleges. A wide range of subjects are on offer, such as theatre and stage, childcare, electronics engineering and many more. Students are charged €200 (Government Levy) a year to attend a PLC course but there are some exemptions to this such as having a full medical card or being eligible for a student grant.

The qualifications a student receives at the end of their training will be a QQI level 5 or level 6 Certificate on the NFQ (National Framework of Qualifications). Levels 5 and 6 are both usually one year in duration with students normally entering at level 5 and proceeding onto level 6. Many students with a level 5 qualification can take up a position of employment and may also meet the minimum requirements for some higher education courses.

A QQI level 6 course provides the student with more opportunities to continue their studies at third level. This level 6 qualification allows the holder to continue to the next level of the NFQ framework. A level 7 NFQ is an ordinary bachelor degree and allows for progression to a level 8 honours bachelor degree or higher diploma.

A full list of PLC colleges can be found at and more information on NFQ levels is available at

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ISO Certification and Standards

iso certification coursesISO, the International Organisation for Standardisation, is an independent, non-governmental organisation, with 162 member countries. It is the world’s largest developer of voluntary international standards and facilitates world trade by providing common standards between nations. Over twenty thousand standards have been set covering everything from manufactured products and technology to food safety, agriculture and healthcare.

Use of the standards aids in the creation of products and services that are safe, reliable and of good quality. The standards help businesses increase productivity while minimising errors and waste. By enabling products from different markets to be directly compared, they facilitate companies in entering new markets and assist in the development of global trade on a fair basis. The standards also serve to safeguard consumers and the end-users of products and services, ensuring that certified products conform to the minimum standards set internationally.

The ISO develop International Standards, such as ISO 9001 and ISO 14001, but are not involved in their certification, and do not issue certificates. This is performed by external certification bodies.

What is ISO Certification?

The provision by an independent body of written assurance (a certificate) that the product, service or system in question meets specific requirements.

Why Choose ISO Certification?

Certification can be a useful tool to add credibility, by demonstrating that your product or service meets the expectations of your customers. For some industries, certification is a legal or contractual requirement.

Popular ISO Certificates

ISO 9000 – Quality management
The ISO 9000 family addresses various aspects of quality management and contains some of ISO’s best known standards. The standards provide guidance and tools for companies and organisations who want to ensure that their products and services consistently meet customer’s requirements, and that quality is consistently improved.

ISO 9001:2015
ISO 9001:2015 sets out the criteria for a quality management system and is the only standard in the family that can be certified to (although this is not a requirement). It can be used by any organisation, large or small, regardless of its field of activity. In fact, there are over one million companies and organisations in over 170 countries certified to ISO 9001.

This standard is based on a number of quality management principles including a strong customer focus, the motivation and implication of top management, the process approach and continual improvement.

ISO 14000

The ISO 14000 family of standards provides practical tools for companies and organisations of all kinds looking to manage their environmental responsibilities.

ISO 14001:2015 and its supporting standards such as ISO 14006:2011 focus on environmental systems to achieve this. The other standards in the family focus on specific approaches such as audits, communications, labelling and life cycle analysis, as well as environmental challenges such as climate change.

The ISO 14000 family of standards are developed by ISO Technical Committee ISO/TC 207 and its various subcommittees.

ISO/IEC 27000 family – Information security management systems
The ISO/IEC 27000 family of standards helps organizations keep information assets secure.

Using this family of standards will help an organisation manage the security of assets such as financial information, intellectual property, employee details or information entrusted to you by third parties.

ISO/IEC 27001 is the best-known standard in the family providing requirements for an information security management system (ISMS).

There are more than a dozen standards in the 27000 family

Other ISO standards can be viewed at

View ISO Certification Courses on

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Summer Options for Third Level Students

summer options and coursesWith the approach of Summer most students are facing changes ahead. The end of year exams usually take place and the light at the end of the tunnel approaches in the form of three months away from college books and deadlines. The summer holidays are a great opportunity to embrace a change in pace, this can mean a new job for the summer, taking a course or even travelling and experiencing new cultures.

The options are plentiful and below are a few ideas to help make the most of those Summer months.

  • If you are passionate about working in a particular field in the future, the quieter summer months can be a great time to apply for work experience. Many companies will have reduced numbers due to staff holidays and be happy to have extra help. Work experience enhances a CV and is a good way to make contacts for the future. If going this route, find out what companies are operating in your chosen field of future study and give them a call or view their website for contacts & opportunities, bear in mind this is best done in advance of the Summer months and many calls or emails may have to be made to secure even a non-paid position. Look at it as valuable experience for the future.
  • The summer holidays can also be an ideal time to get a paying job and save some money. There are always plenty of positions available seeking college students for the summer months and many of them can be found online. One online resource can be found at – Jobs such as au-pairing, summer camp leaders and specific student summer roles are all on offer.
  • The summer break can be a great time to learn a new language. The time away from the pressures of college is the opportunity to immerse yourself in studying something new. There are plenty of courses available around the country such as those run in Sandford Languages Institute which has a wide range of language courses starting in June.
  • One of the best ways to savour having three months holidays is to travel. The J-1 Summer Work and Travel Programme allows full-time third level students to enter America on a J-1 exchange visitor visa. This means students can live and work in the USA for up to four months. Another travel option is to sign up for a volunteering programme in a country such as India, Peru or Cost Rica. Volunteering is a great way to see the world while doing something rewarding. More information can be found at
  • For those who want to stay closer to home and are looking for ways to fill their time, Summer courses can be a good option, An example is IADT in Dun Laoghaire which offers a wide selection of art based summer courses including portfolio preparation, watercolour classes and botanical art and illustration. For more information visit
    Other colleges offering Summer courses include UCD ( and Letterkenny IT (offering a 4 day Computer Summer Camp). NUI Galway also offers a range of Summer schools, more info at

Of course there’s always the option of taking a well earned break from exam stress and study and if you feel like you need some recuperation time then maybe the best plan is not to plan at all and enjoy a few months with your family and friends.

Author: Fiona McBennett

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North West Career Fest 2017

northwest career fest in SligoThe inaugural North West IGC Careers Fair will take place in IT Sligo on May 11th 2017 from 9:30 a.m. until 3 p.m. The schedule includes exhibitors from the higher education sector, industry, state organisations and the voluntary sector.

The event is aimed at providing a platform locally for students from the region to meet with colleges, training bodies, and local businesses. They will also experience visiting a third level institution and have the opportunity to attend brief lectures/talks.

All information about the event is on the website: There are currently two sessions; 9.30am to 12pm & 12.30pm to 3pm. This is a unique opportunity for students in the region to meet with successful employers and find out about career opportunities.

The event will be supported with information provided by a wide selection of third level institutions. This is a non-profit event which has the aim of becoming firmly established on school calendars on an annual basis.

For more info, visit

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Manual Handling Courses

manual handling coursesManual Handling training is a requirement of Regulation 69 of the Safety Health & Welfare at Work (General Application) Regulations 2007. These regulations are applicable to all work places and extremely relevant to many.

So, what exactly is Manual handling? It means any moving of loads by hand where a person could hurt themselves. A fuller definition is: Any transporting or supporting of a load by one or more employees, and includes lifting, putting down, pushing, pulling carrying or moving a load, which by reason of its characteristics or unfavourable conditions, involves risk, particularly of back injury, to employees. Manual handling training courses are specifically designed to enable employees to avoid injuries.

Yes, we take it for granted that we know how to lift or put down a box, without causing injury. Some of us might even rubbish such courses. However, according to the Health and Safety Authority’s (HSA) Statistics Summary for 2009 – 2010, manual handling injuries accounted for one third of all reported injuries in 2010. These injuries are serious enough to keep the injured party out of work for 3 days or more often at significant expense to the injured party and their employer. Therefore, as an employee or an employer a manual training course is something that has to be taken seriously. As a job seeker, it might even give you an advantage over other applicants who have not completed manual handling training.

In June 2006, the HSA set up a Manual Handling Training Advisory Group. Since then, the group has worked in conjunction with the Further Education and Training Awards Council (now QQI) on developing the new Manual Handling Instruction Standards.
manual handling courses in Ireland
In order to raise awareness of this issue and assist employers, the HSA has published a wide range of material on manual handling guidance and has produced on-line video case studies. There is guidance specifically for the Healthcare, Hospitality and Retail Sector where workers are particularly vulnerable to back injury. One of the main contributory causes of back injury in workplaces has been the lack of risk assessment of manual handling. The HSA guidance gives illustrated examples of simple solutions including the use of appropriate handling aids and/or better organisation of work.

Frank Power, Health and Safety Authority Inspector, believes that sector specific guidance is particularly useful, “By looking at the kind of work a Porter, Nurse or Shop Assistant has to do and giving practical examples of how to deal with manual handling we can see improvements in sectors that would have a high incidents of related injuries. There is no point in waiting until an accident has happened, by then it’s too late. I would encourage employers to consult with their employees and together they can come up with solutions that are effective in reducing or avoiding the risk and are acceptable to both parties.”

Manual Handling Courses should not just be seen as another course you have to do. It should be viewed as an occupational training course that will increase employability and performance. As an employee, it might prevent you joining the 33% of people who are annually out of work due to back injury. Work-place accidents also cost an employer a lot of money and expense. Unfortunately, sometimes a back injury can be for life, whilst a training course is just a few hours!

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