Smart Choices

How finding your feet in FET can increase your chances of success at Third Level and beyond

Following a strange start to 2020, to many it may seem as though options have been extremely curtailed in recent months. A cancelled Leaving Certificate and the prospect of a socially distanced college experience may seem hard to imagine, but despite the restrictions and the changes to our understanding of ordinary life, recent school leavers now have a world of choice when it comes to taking their next big step in Further Education and Training (FET).

The established route from school to university is not a one size fits all model. Post-Leaving Certificate (PLC) courses have much to offer recent school leavers. There are one and two-year programmes offering awards at NFQ Levels 5 and 6 in a wide variety of subjects, including Multimedia Web Development and ICT, Sport, Anatomy and Nutrition, Art and Design, pre-university Science, among many others. 

Ready for the world of work

Applied learning courses means that students apply classroom theory to real life situations, meaning that upon completion, students are ready for the world of work, or prepared for further learning. PLC courses are not accessed via the Central Applications Office (CAO). Instead, interested students can apply directly to the colleges or through

Many students who take up PLCs decide to continue studies upon completion and these courses can act as a steppingstone to third-level study. Recent research has shown the third level completion rate for students with a foundation in a PLC rises to 75 per cent, meaning those who first consider Further Education and Training options as a pathway to Higher Education are successful in choosing the right courses and securing their degree. 

Many universities, colleges and Institutes of Technology have programmes in place to recognise further education and training qualifications as a route to entry. If a student completes a PLC programme with good results and meets specific criteria, they have a good chance of securing a place on a third level course. A database of such linked programmes is available on


In addition to PLC options, the range of apprenticeships in Ireland has expanded greatly in recent years. The “earn as you learn” model is becoming ever more popular with school leavers who want to fast-track their careers but still earn a qualification. 

Apprenticeships are now available in a wide variety of areas, including international financial services, recruitment, auctioneering, engineering, hospitality and insurance practice, with even more set to be announced within the coming months. 

In terms of qualifications, apprenticeships can take you from Leaving Certificate as far as you want to go, in some cases, all the way to NFQ Levels 9 and 10, the equivalent of a Masters and Doctoral degree.


A third option is to undertake a Traineeship. Traineeships typically take from 6-20 months full-time to complete. They provide occupation-specific training and integrate formal classroom training and workplace coaching with a host employer. Courses facilitate those entering the labour market for the first time and persons wishing to up-date or acquire new skills

In August 2020, the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris, announced a number of financial incentives to support the uptake of apprenticeships in Ireland. The Government will encourage employers to take on new apprentices in 2020 and 2021, which means even more apprenticeship opportunities will be available to school leavers, despite the effects of COVID-19.

Whatever your chosen career, Further Education and Training can take you there. 

For more information on FET courses and apprenticeships, visit and

We are the makers. The future is what you make it.

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