- 30 Aug 23
Rushing straight from the Leaving Certificate into Higher Education isn’t for everybody – and there are many benefits to exploring the wide variety of options that Further Education & Training has to offer...
Whether you’re looking for direct entry into employment, a stepping stone into university, or you’re still trying to figure out exactly where your passions lie, it’s crucial to consider Further Education & Training (FET) – and its exciting, diverse range of smart learning options.
Ireland is home to 1,500 Post Leaving Certificate (PLC) courses – which are at Levels 5 & 6 on the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ) – covering a wide variety of subjects, and opening up pathways to successful careers in countless industries. For young people leaving secondary school, FET courses, which are outside of the points system, can be as smart a choice as Higher Education. The courses are provided by 16 Education and Training Boards (ETBs), as well as through other local providers across the country, and are funded by SOLAS, the Further Education and Training authority.
Following the Leaving Cert and the points race, recent graduate David Hussey secured a place on a course at an institute of technology – but he soon found that it wasn’t a good fit for him.
“I just wasn’t interested in the programme,” he recalls. “So, after about six weeks, I left – and I didn’t know what I was going to do.”
David’s experience is not unique, with many students discovering in First Year that their chosen path doesn’t quite feel right for them.
However, there’s no reason to feel like your options are limited, or your future is set in stone. After finding out about Dunboyne College of Further Education, which was located close to his home, David started to explore his options.
“I decided to go and have a look – and see what kind of course would appeal to me,” he resumes. “I ended up doing a two-year course in film studies, and I loved it. It was just so interesting.”
PLC and pre-university courses – which are usually one to two years in duration – have become an exciting preferred option for many.
Variety is paramount when it comes to FET, with a huge range of courses that can take learners into exciting careers – in areas such as Software Development, Cyber Security, renewable energy technology, Business IT & ecommerce, Criminology, Nutrition, and more. PLC courses are available across 12 categories, including Education, Agriculture and Veterinary, Information and Communications Technologies, Engineering and Construction, Science and Maths, Business and Law, Social Sciences, and Arts.
As well as serving as a great direct entry into seriously in-demand jobs, FET courses are also a handy way for students to try out a subject they’re interested in, before a four-year degree – through pre-university courses across areas such as Science, Physiotherapy, Engineering, Law, and more.
Research suggests that a FET course can better prepare students for Higher Education – ultimately giving them a greater chance of completing their degree.
“The atmosphere isn’t pressurised, and the people are there to help you,” David says of his FET experience.
Crucially, FET is for everyone – with a huge range of education options open to anyone over the age of 16, and available in every county. This local element is particularly appealing to learners who are not yet ready, or able, to move away from home – and want to further their studies without having to relocate or face long commutes.
“There was an array of different people in the college,” David remarks. “There were people there who had gone to college to do engineering, for example, and didn’t like it. There were also people who got high points in their Leaving Cert, who decided to do a FET course because they might not have known what they wanted to do – and so, didn’t want to go straight into a four-year degree. It was a really good place to figure out what you like, and what you don’t like.”
Of course, there’s plenty of practical benefits to FET too, including smaller class sizes.
“We had around ten people in the class, whereas you’d have maybe 200 in university,” David notes. “So you get to have really good communication with your lecturers. It was a great environment for learning. You’re learning how to write an essay, or use equipment and gear – like you would in university. It was a really interesting introduction to the whole thing.”
The courses are fantastic stepping-stones into Higher Education, with many students entering institutes of technology and universities straight from FET.
The National Tertiary Office – a joint initiative between SOLAS and the Higher Education Authority – recently announced 23 new tertiary programmes outside of the points system, which will allow students to enter a degree programme that begins in Further Education, and concludes in Higher Education. A select number of Education and Training Boards and Higher Education Institutions across the country are teaming up to deliver the initial joint programmes.
After his two-year course at Dunboyne College of Further Education, David was offered a place at Maynooth University, to do a double major in Media Studies and Law. After embracing university life, and getting involved in the radio and law societies, he’s now gearing up for his graduation ceremony.
So, with CAO offer season currently in full swing, David urges students to consider the many benefits of FET as part of their learning journey.
“It doesn’t matter what you get in your Leaving Cert – if you don’t know what you want to do, the best thing is to look at Level 5 & 6 courses,” he states. “Even looking at them might inspire you to do something you hadn’t thought of before.”
The road from secondary school to a career is not always straightforward – but with a diverse range of PLC and pre-university courses available across the country, there’s no reason why you should settle for a course you’re not passionate about.
There’s never been a better time to broaden your horizons, and discover your full potential through FET.
• Discover Post Leaving Certificate and pre-university courses to prepare you for the career of your dreams at thisisfet.ie
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