Further Education provides a viable alternative to the CAO system, in terms of courses on offer, internationally recognisable qualifications and employment prospects. This sector comprises of education and training which occurs after second-level schooling but which is not part of the higher education system.
Further Education colleges offer Post Leaving Certificate courses (PLCs) and are run by a wide range of public/private colleges and institutions – leading to awards validated by Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI), as well as other awards validated by a range of Irish, UK and other international awarding bodies. The courses are full-time and last for one or two years. Post Leaving Certificate courses adopt an integrated approach, focusing on technical knowledge, core skills and work experience. Most qualifications are either NFQ Level 5 or 6 (On the National Framework of Qualifications). The next steps being, Level 7 or 8, (degree/honours degree, respectively) which are available in Higher Education Institutes, and which can be progressed to to via the Further Education sector.
The distinguishing features of FE colleges are their accessibility and links to the community, employers, higher education, schools, youth groups and other services. Their focus is on courses that are reflective of the needs of the community and where they view current/future skills shortage. Most courses have modules like work experience and communications built into them, to ensure that course participants are prepared and ready for work. The educational environment and atmosphere is also unique in the sense that it is conducive to the optimum learning experience, with small class sizes, and staff that have often vast personal work experience in the area they teach or lecture in.
The Further Education sector and the demand for course places continues to grow. Students regularly opt to apply for a college place in Further Education alongside their CAO application. Application is made directly to the individual college and there is no limit to the number of courses you can apply for.
There are currently over 200 Further Education Providers in Ireland. The demand for places come from both secondary school leavers; who apply to enhance their employment prospects or to progress to higher education, and adults returning to education who may not have completed their leaving certificate. There are any number of reasons why students choose Further Education Colleges; of course, the main reasons are that FE providers can offer you that stepping stone to further and higher education, via The Higher Education Links Scheme, where specific FE courses are linked to higher education courses or The Pilot Scheme, whereby FE applicants’ results are converted into a separate points scheme, and they may be eligible for offers of places on a wider variety of third level courses.
A FE qualification is industry/service specific – therefore enabling you to target employment in areas where you are competent and qualified in. It is important to remember that some FE colleges have their own agreed progression agreements with their local ITs. Some students presenting with certain Level 6 awards can go straight into a Level 7 (degree course) related course in an IT. UK colleges have also established links with Further Education Colleges in Ireland. If you are considering using the FE route to gain access to a Higher Education course, research what links are in place, if further education applicants are considered, and if there are reserved places on offer.
The general entry requirement is with a Leaving Certificate or equivalent or work/life experience – depending on the course being applied for. Most courses require an interview and some courses will look for a portfolio if relevant to the course being applied for. In terms of financial support – students are entitled to apply for the means tested maintenance grant.
There are an extensive range of course on offer, from Business, Art, Sport and Leisure, Child Care, Horticulture to IT, to name but a few. New courses are continually being devised and ran to reflect our changing economic environment and to address areas with skills shortages. This sector of education have become leaders in delivering courses in childcare, community care, sport and leisure, tourism along with others. Employers know the educational attainments of employees they hire when they come through this standardised system of education. Candidates must reach a certain standard of educational attainment in terms of modules completed in order to be accredited with their QQI award.
There are numerous Further Education Colleges in various locations around Ireland. Some examples of these are listed below;
Kinsale College in Cork offers a range of PLC courses in areas such as Business and Accounting, Childcare, Drama and Acting, Environmental, Fitness and Health, Hotel and Catering, Media, Art and Design, Medical and Healthcare and more.
Dunboyne College in Meath also offers a wide range of PLC courses. The specialist areas covered by Dunboyne college are listed below..
Animal Care, Arts and Humanities, Business and Accounting, Childcare, Computers and IT Training, Fitness and Health, Hair and Beauty, Hotel and Catering, Legal, Media, Art and Design, Medical and Healthcare, Music and Sound Engineering, Personal Development, Sales, Marketing and PR, Science, Social Studies, Travel and Tourism.
St Louis Community School in Mayo has an outstanding and long tradition of providing full and part-time courses for school leavers and adults. The college offers daytime courses in 5 fields (Sport, Childcare, Hairdressing and Beauty, Business and Nursing and Health) leading to 9 Awards at QQI level 5 or level 6.
Stillorgan College in Dublin caters for school leavers and adult learners offering a range of further education and PLC courses in areas such as Business and Accounting, Computers and IT Training, Literature and Journalism, Media, Art and Design, Travel and Tourism.
Blackrock Institute of Further Education offers further education and PLC courses in a wide array of subjects such as Arts and Humanities, Built Environment, Business and Accounting, Computers and IT Training, Financial, Fitness and Health, Hair and Beauty, Health and Safety, Horticulture and Landscaping, Legal, Media, Art and Design, Psychology, Sales, Marketing and PR, Social Studies.
Portobello Institute, one of Ireland’s leading private training colleges prides itself on offering intensive post leaving certificate training to students of all ages. Established in 1981, the Institute has successfully established itself within the market place as an exceptional college choice with notable success rates. The college offers a number of full time, part time and distant learning courses covering Montessori & Special Needs, Creative Studies, Beauty Therapy, Sports Therapy & Health related studies, Business and Travel & Tourism – all of which encompass the necessary educational and life skills necessary to succeed in any of these areas.
Moate Business College in the midlands offers a lot more than just business courses. Since opening in 1991 the college have developed a wide range of Further Education courses in response to demand both at local and national level. The College is renowned throughout the midlands for the quality of its job related courses.
All FE colleges have services, supports and facilities that one would expect from a third level provider – just on a smaller scale. Further education providers are quite holistic in their approach to education – after all their aim is to ensure candidates reach their full potential and are prepared in every way for the world of work or to progress onwards to higher education.
Whether you want to test out a career area before committing to a degree programme with a Higher Education Provider or perhaps you want to gain key transferable skills to enhance your job prospects – further education could be your answer. There are many successful professionals in the work place today who got a second chance of fulfilling their career goals via the FE system when they couldn’t reach the minimum requirements or points for the CAO requirements. Yes, there are Physical Education teachers that have come through the FE system; there are nurses in hospitals that used FE colleges as a stepping stone to their Nursing Degree. There are also many students in Higher Education Institutes studying honours degree programme or for a masters, who have come from the classrooms of further education colleges.
Further Education providers are fulfilling their ultimate educational objectives. Surveys and statistics highlight this, many graduates go directly into employment, while many others go into higher education in Ireland or abroad.
View more Further Education Colleges at the following link; www.colleges.ie/type/plc-colleges-2.html