Smart Choices – how FET and Apprenticeships can take you where you want to go

With the Leaving Certificate now over and life beginning to return to normal, the class of 2021 have a bright future ahead as they move into the next phase of their learning journeys. Despite the remaining restrictions, a return to on campus education is looking increasingly likely in September and recent school leavers now have a world of choice when it comes to taking their next big step including options in Further Education and Training (FET).

Not one-size-fits-all

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 pre-university Science, Anatomy and Nutrition, Sport, Art and Design, Multimedia Web Development and ICT, among many others. 

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

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, they have a good chance of securing a reserved place on a third level course. A database of such linked programmes is available on

Range of Apprenticeships

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 healthcare, biopharma, international financial services, auctioneering, engineering, hospitality and insurance practice, with many more on offer to young people on the Generation Apprenticeship website: 

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.

In April 2021, the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris, launched a new Action Plan for Apprenticeships with a commitment to enhance government support for apprenticeships over the next five years. The Government will encourage employers to take on new apprentices in 2021 and beyond through employer incentives which means even more Apprenticeship opportunities will be available to school leavers, despite the effects of COVID-19.


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

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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