Higher Education or CAO courses are not the right choice for everyone. There are a huge variety of Further Education Courses (FET) which offer independent qualifications on the national framework and can be used to progress directly into employment. These courses also provide another route into Third Level for students.
What is a QQI/FET applicant?
Further Education (FE) applicants are those who have successfully completed a PLC course and are now the holders of a qualification that is recognised by Quality & Qualifications Ireland (QQI). PLC courses are recognised programmes of study which form a bridge between secondary school and Third Level education.
A full, searchable database of PLC courses is available here.
PLC qualifications are usually Level 5 or 6 on the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ). They are fully accredited and recognised by colleges, employers, and employment organisations.
PLC courses are one or two-year long programmes of classroom learning, combined with applied practical learning. Courses typically consist of eight modules and include a work placement as part of the programme. Students are assessed on the basis of assignments, research, placement and end of year exams.
The great thing is that as well as offering a recognised qualification in their own right, a PLC Course can also offer an alternative route to Higher Level education - a stepping stone, so to speak.
The Higher Education Links Scheme
The HELS Scheme provides progression opportunities for learners who are interested in applying for Higher Education programmes through the CAO. Learners can secure Level 5 or Level 6 QQI-FET major award by doing a PLC course and then use this qualification to apply for a Higher Level course. [Further information on HELS available here].
Third Level Colleges reserve a number of places each year for students applying via the PLC/FET route. For example, the quota of places available at UCD can be viewed here.
How do I find out more about PLC Progression?
PLC courses that can be used to progress to certain Third Level courses are clearly highlighted in the CareersPortal.ie PLC CourseFinder database - look for the QQI link symbol as follows, and CLICK HERE to search the PLC course database:
What are the advantages of doing a PLC course?
FE colleges offer a wide variety of PLC courses [search here] covering a range of career interests, including many with a practical content.
- The Higher Education Links Scheme offers PLC students an alternative route into Third Level college courses
- If a student fails to meet the Leaving Cert Points requirement, they can still access a large number of college courses by meeting the QQI/FET entry requirements.
- Courses offer a more gentle progression from school to college
- It can be useful and cost-effective way to spend a gap year if a young person is waiting to take up a deferred place or remains undecided about their plans
- It offers a taster course for subjects not available in a Leaving Cert Curriculum
- The compulsory Work Experience module allows students to gain valuable experience in their chosen workplace
- Students that have completed the Leaving Cert Applied (LCA) can access third level education through the PLC route.
How and when are applications made?
Applications are made online directly to the college in question, with most also having an interview process.
PLC courses can fill up quickly as many students apply during their Leaving Cert year to be sure of having a contingency plan. However, it always worthwhile to enquire about vacancies as places will become available when students take-up their CAO offers.
The CareersPortal Team