With 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.