For many years Further Education, and in particular Post Leaving Cert. (PLC) provision has been the “Cinderella” of the Irish education system. Even with over 30,000 participants annually, PLC Colleges and Further Education Institutes fall between the two stools of Post Primary and Third Level.
With the restructuring and reimagining of Further Education and Training under the stewardship of SOLAS, PLC programmes and students are beginning to receive the deserved recognition and support.
Arguably, Blackrock Further Education Institute (BFEI) is one of the flagship PLC colleges in Ireland. Built on the site of the original Blackrock Town Hall, the Municipal Technical College of 1903 and the Carnegie Library, BFEI’s award winning campus and cutting-edge technology exemplifies the new importance and value of further education and in particular PLC courses. While the BFEI facilities may be exceptional, what happens inside is common to many locations nationwide.
All PLC courses are quality assured and focussed either on providing progression paths to higher education or direct employment opportunities.
BFEI’s Beauty and Theatrical Makeup are examples of employment-oriented courses. These courses develop industry relevant, accredited skills while remaining accessible and affordable. There is an insatiable demand for quality professionals in the industry and many students have secured employment prior to course completion. Teachers continuously upskill and fine-tune curricula to meet new labour market expectations.
The success of a college is measured by the achievement of the students. As well as winning numerous national competitions, four BFEI students enjoyed an all expenses trip to Paris as winners of the 2019 Matis Paris Competition.
At last, the concept of PLC as Pre-University courses has gained traction. Regardless of the number of CAO points gained, not all Leaving Cert students are immediately ready for the challenges of Third Level studies. Vast campuses and anonymity among large numbers can be daunting. Each year some excellent students simply drop out; they become disillusioned about their subject choice; others have not yet developed the necessary skills of critical and independent thinking.
Valuable preparatory step
A PLC course was often dismissed as merely a contingency. Now, there is a growing realisation that PLC offers a valuable preparatory step between Post Primary and Third Level. For those short of CAO points, it offers an alternative pathway to Third Level. For all, a PLC course offers the opportunity to develop the skills of time management, self-organisation and the practicalities of effective reading, writing and study – at an extremely modest cost. Anecdotal feedback strongly suggests that PLC students are often better equipped to succeed.
BFEI recognises the importance of the “College Experience” and actively encourages events and activities that help create friendships and promote teamwork. The Erasmus+ programme offers potential for European exchange.
In 2019, BFEI Beauty Therapy students completed three weeks work experience in Tenerife in 4 and 5-star spas and salons. Computer Science and Network Security students were placed in Utrecht, The Netherlands. Both groups received excellent feedback and Europass certification. Ambitious plans to further enhance these links for the 2019/2020 academic year were recently approved.
Upskill or reskill
It is difficult to identify the typical PLC student. As the acronym suggests many are in the 18-25 age bracket. However, there are significant numbers of more mature students that wish to upskill or reskill. The value of life-long learning and social inclusion, while difficult to quantify are also important roles for PLC colleges. Remember all are welcome.
If studying in Blackrock Further Education Institute is of interest, the next Open Day is Wednesday 15th January 2020, 10am to 4pm. Google Blackrock Further Education or go directly to http://www.bfei.ie for further details and apply online.