If you have finished your secondary education in Ireland and would like to develop vocational and technological skills in order to get a job or to go into further education and training, the Post-Leaving Certificate (PLC) course may be the one you are looking for. The PLC is often seen just as a course for school-leavers. In fact, you will be also welcomed as an adult participant.
PLC courses take place in schools, colleges and community education centres around the country. The courses are full-time and last for one to two years. They offer a mixture of "hands-on" practical work, academic work and work experience. They are designed as a step towards skilled employment and, as such, they are closely linked to industry and its needs. Post Leaving Certificate courses adopt an integrated approach, focusing on technical knowledge, core skills and work experience. Almost 50% of the time spent on these courses is devoted to knowledge and skill training related to employment, with a further 25% on relevant work-based experience.
Over 90% of PLC courses are delivered by VECs (vocational education committees). At present, over 1,000 courses are on offer in some 229 centres. A wide range of disciplines are covered including business, electronics engineering, computing, catering, sport and leisure, theatre and stage, performance art, art craft and design, equestrian studies, multi-media studies, journalism, tourism, marketing, childcare and community care, hairdressing and beauty care, applied science, horticulture etc. You can search the full list of available PLC courses using our PLC Course Search.
The qualification you receive at the end of your training will depend on the type of course you have chosen. Many of the one-year PLC courses offer Further Education and Training Awards Council (FETAC) accreditation at level 5, while other more advanced courses may offer FETAC level 6, which can lead to further studies at third level. For example, FETAC students making CAO applications in 2009 were able to choose courses from forty-one higher education institutions including universities, institutes of technology and private third level colleges.
In addition to the Higher Education Links Scheme (HELS) which links specific FETAC Level 5 Certificates and some Level 6 Advanced Certificates to a number of reserved places on higher education courses, the Institutes of Technology and some higher education institutions operate an admissions criteria and scoring system for non-specific FETAC Level 5 Certificate and Level 6 Advanced Certificate applicants.
FETAC publish a document annually showing the progression from Level 5 and Level 6 Certificates to Higher Education courses at third Level [2009 edition - pdf file].
Other qualifications such as City and Guilds are also available. It is important to check out the qualification attached to a particular course before you decide to enrol.
In general, you should have finished your secondary education and taken your Leaving Certificate examination in order to be eligible for a PLC course. However, if you have work experience relevant to the course on offer or think you can demonstrate a particular ability in that area, you should write to the college where the course will take place. Explain your circumstances in the letter and ask to meet the co-ordinator of the course.
A new PLC programme participant contribution has been introduced in further education with effect from the 2011/12 academic year. This charge is not payable under the student grant scheme. However, the following categories of PLC participants are exempt from paying the contribution to the course provider:
• Full medical card holders in their own right and their dependent children
• Those who are eligible under the Student Grant Scheme
• Those in receipt of the Back to Education Allowance (BTEA) or Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme (VTOS) allowances.
PLC maintenance grants are available for students who are registered on PLC courses. These are set by the Minister for Education and Science each year. The maintenance grant does not cover the charge for registration or examinations.
How to apply
Find the course in which you are most interested and apply directly to the school or college offering that course. Because the courses are work-related, you will probably be called for an interview before a final selection is made. These interviews are often quite informal and offer you the opportunity to discuss your particular interest in the course.
In relation to the maintenance grant, contact your local VEC for application details. You can also apply online.