The following was published in the Irish Independent here: https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/education/going-to-college/best-of-both-worlds-route-to-college-or-job-qualification-is-now-multi-faceted-42271184.html
In one college of further education alone, half the PLC class of 2022 went straight to a job and most of the rest progressed to higher education, many to ‘high points’ courses
The value of taking the post-Leaving Cert (PLC) route after school should never be underestimated.
The courses are a popular choice for those who want to enter the workplace relatively quickly with an appropriate qualification, and not have to go through a four-year degree programme.
But thousands of students use them as a gateway to a degree programme that perhaps eluded them a year previously because they didn’t have sufficient CAO points.
While the CAO is often the only talking point for sixth-years and their parents, PLCs can bring students to the same study and career destination as little as 12 months later, and without the pressure of points.
PLCs are available in colleges of further education nationwide and they cover such a spread of interests that there is something for everyone. Most courses run for one year, offering a Level 5 qualification, with some extending to two years and a Level 6 award.
There are well-worn progression paths that allow a student to use their results to compete for places reserved for PLC graduates in higher education.
Third-level colleges are opening more places, and on more courses, to PLC graduates, with Dublin City University ( DCU) in particular currently making big strides in this regard.
Either way, a PLC can be very useful in giving students breathing space after the pressure of the Leaving Cert and time to explore an area of interest to see whether they would really like to pursue it as a career.
Dunboyne College of Further Education (DCFE), Co Meath, a large provider of post-Leaving Cert further education and training courses, is a good measure of how well a PLC can serve the differing needs of students.
The college had about 1,000 graduates last year, half of whom were snapped up for the workplace. PLC courses include a work placement and DCFE principal Denis Leonard said many of his students used this to obtain full-time positions in areas like childcare, healthcare, business, hairdressing, beauty therapy, and professional cookery.
“In fact, we can not meet the demand for graduates in some sectors. It really points to the fact that not all students should opt for full-time degree courses,” he said.
The outcome was just as bright for the other half of the Dunboyne class of 2022, most of whom used their PLC to secure a place in higher education.
More than 90pc of those who were eligible to apply to the CAO received an offer based on their PLC results, and the figures also reveal a trend of students receiving offers for courses that would otherwise require more than 500 points.
In total, 416 Dunboyne students were offered places on Level 8 (honours degree) courses with 273 receiving Level 7 (ordinary degree) offers. Some received offers for a course at both levels.
Mr Leonard said the figures do not include offers to mature students and students who received offers from UK and EU universities.
Among the places on 500-plus points courses his gradutes scooped up were on DCU’s Athletic Therapy and Training, UCD’s Commerce and Maynooth University’s Psychology.
Other offers for high-points courses included Accounting and Finance in DCU, Home Economics and Biology with Teacher Education in St Angela’s College, Psychology in UCD, Clinical Measurement Science and Optometry in TU Dublin and BESS and Biological and Biomedical Sciences in Trinity.
Nursing is one area where progression from PLC to degree programmes has not been as smooth, and there is trend of pre-nursing students accepting offers in the UK, but 2022 saw a growth in offers from Irish universities.
The majority of DCFE graduates apply to
and accept offers from universities and other third-level colleges in their catchment area, with TU Dublin making 270 offers and Maynooth University offering 87 places. DCU offered 58 places, followed closely by UCD with 54 offers and there were 21 offers from Trinity College.
While the majority of the offers and acceptances reflected the geographical location of the college, other universities and colleges from Carlow to Cork, Letterkenny to Limerick, Sligo to the new South East Technology University in Waterford and across to Galway, were also well represented.
Mr Leonard, a former guidance counsellor, said: “Not every student knows what they want to study when they complete school and nor should we expect them to know.
“By opting for the further education route they can explore their interests and use it to progress. It is not all about the high points or the CAO courses.”