Further Education and Training – The Future is What You Make it!


When it comes to you choosing a career path, the route that often comes to mind is full time study in either a college or university. While many of you will take this route, it may not be suitable for everyone. So, what options are there for those who want to consider alternatives or who want to jump straight into a paid career?

Further Education and Training (FET), offers a wide variety of life-long education options to anyone over 16. FET includes:

  • Apprenticeships, traineeships,
  • Post Leaving Cert (PLC) courses,
  • Community and adult education
  • Literacy and numeracy services.

FET courses and programmes are provided through the Education and Training Board (ETB) network throughout the country as well as through other local providers including online through SOLAS’ eCollege. FET courses are provided at levels one to six on the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ).

To explore the range of Further Education and Training courses on offer check out the FETCH Courses hub at

Post Leaving Certificate (PLC)

PLC courses are designed for young people who have completed their Leaving Certificate and for adults wishing to return to education. The courses last one or two years and will lead to an award on the National Framework of Qualification (NFQ) at Level 5 or Level 6.

With QQI Level 5 and 6 Awards, PLC learners can add to their CAO points they scored for their Leaving Certificate to access Higher Education courses. PLC courses can be used as an alternative steppingstone or as a “back door” into Higher Education courses. The courses develop technical and practical skills for an industry recognised qualification. They also can give you the opportunity to try out a subject you are interested in, before committing to it.

PLC courses take place in schools, colleges and community education centres. The courses offer a mixture of 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.

PLC courses adopt an integrated approach, focusing on technical knowledge, core skills and work experience. Almost half of the time spent on these courses is devoted to knowledge and skill training related to employment, with a further quarter spent on relevant work-based experience.

Students in the Leaving Cert class of 2020 have faced major disruption in their studies this year and PLCs are one option available to them as they plan to seek employment or progress to further study.

Most PLC courses are delivered by ETBs. A wide range of disciplines is covered. There are over 1500+ PLC courses across ETBs. Find out more



1. CAO Points Some learners may not have gained sufficient CAO points for their desired course at college or university or may simply want to choose to do a PLC course as the next stage of their learning. Learners can gain extra points through completing a PLC. Learners who successfully complete a Leaving Certificate Applied would not have had access to the CAO system can access the CAO system by enrolling on a PLC course.

2. College Places Holders of any QQI Level 5 award can progress onto over 700 level 6/7 courses at an Institute of Technology. Most of the major Irish universities also recognise the qualification for entry requirement purposes. In addition to an increased number of CAO points, some third level education providers reserve places specifically for QQI Level 5 students in certain courses related to the course that they have undertaken.

3. Recognised Qualification Level 5/6 PLC courses are all approved by the QQI and are subject to the strict Quality Assurance controls by the QQI and local ETB. QQI Level 5/6 courses and qualifications are recognised both nationally and internationally and form part of a continuum of education that is described in the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ).

4. Gap Year Some students may not feel quite ready to progress to college or university. Many students will defer the college place for a year to complete the PLC course. They may not be completely sure of what course they would like to do or what future career path they might like to follow. Others may feel they are too young to start college or university. Completing a PLC gives the students the time and space to consider such questions carefully. They have the time to investigate courses more thoroughly and/or to complete a career investigation.

5. Taster Year Some students who have already secured a college or university course may be reluctant to commit to a full three or four years if they are uncertain about this being the right choice for them. A PLC course in that area of study can provide a useful taster of what the area of study would be like and students can then make a more informed choice whether to proceed in this area of study at college. Many students decide to take a new direction during this year.

6. Key Study and Work Skills PLC courses equip students with key, practical and transferable skills that are extremely useful both atv college and in working life. Students gain confidence in making presentations in public, become proficient in word processing and typing skills and acquire specific skills relating to their future course of study or career path.

7. Incomplete Higher Education Programmes Significant numbers of students drop out of college and university each year for a variety of reasons including choosing the wrong course, struggling to adjust to college life, struggling with coursework, uncertainty over career aspirations and so forth. Completing a PLC course reduces the likelihood of dropout for students as many of these issues are resolved during the course of the year by building capacity, developing key skills, researching careers and courses of interest and developing independence in a more gradual and organic manner.

8. Work Experience Most PLC courses incorporate a Work Experience module which gives students direct experience of the type of work related to their course of study and related to their future career aspirations. This taster of the world of work and the insight gained into specific career area gives greater focus to the student’s learning and empowers them to make important decisions about course and career choice.

9. Finance and the SUSI Grant Many families may struggle financially with the considerable cost of sending a student to college. The costs associated with PLC courses are more reasonable. There is a charge of €200 associated with PLC programmes (students with medical cards are exempt). Students who are eligible for the SUSI grant at college or university are also eligible for the same grant for the PLC. This will not affect your entitlement to the grant on going to college if you progress to a QQI Level 6, 7 or 8 courses on the National Framework (NFQ).

One-Year Business Administration, Post-Leaving Cert, Finn Valley College

Jamie started third level college in October (2019) with his hopes set on a food-related degree. He soon found the course wasn’t for him and decided to explore the world of business instead.

Jamie returned to his former school at Finn Valley College in Stranorlar, Co Donegal, which is under the umbrella of Donegal ETB, for a one-year Business Administration PLC. Despite never studying Business at Junior or Leaving Cert level, he discovered a new interest and passion for the field. Jamie used his PLC year to develop skills that are useful in any office or business setting.

“It’s a good insight into what it would be like to work in an office. You improve on your word processing, typing, bookkeeping, you learn about bills, how a business operates and how to manage your own business, I really enjoyed getting the experience and trying something new that I’ve never done before. It’s definitely opened my eyes to a lot more things I can do now. I thought it would be the same as being in secondary school but it felt like you are in college and you are treated more like an adult. My course was 90% computer work. The responsibility is on you to get the work done.”

Jamie also gained the experience of doing regular assignments, which is a key steppingstone to good college learning. This newfound interest in business has led Jamie to apply for business degrees for the year to come and he's hoping his PLC results will give him an advantage in securing a place.

One Year Leisure and Recreation Studies Post-Leaving Cert, CSN College of Further Education

Luke did his Leaving Certificate in 2017 and just missed his place on his first choice by 13 points. Luke decided to undertake a PLC course in order to add points to his CAO total, so he would be in a better position for the following year to apply for his desired course at UCC Sports Studies & Physical Education. “I knew Further Education was a pathway and this course was always my plan B. Now I have the NCEF qualification under my belt, it is amazing to know while I’m in studying the industry I can work as a fitness instructor. I did my work experience at the Mardyke Arena which was a brilliant opportunity. I would recommend this course. People shouldn’t do a course just so they can say they are in Third Level. The key is to enjoy what you do, end up where you want to be while gaining industry insights too. My career plan is health or teaching.” Luke was successful and started at UCC in September 2018, on his desired course, at Sports Studies & Physical Education.

One-Year Healthcare Support Post- Leaving Cert, Croom College of Further Education (CCFE)

“CCFE offered all the modules I wanted including Palliative Care. I was pretty nervous about being back in a classroom as a mature student, however I got fantastic support and encouragement from the tutors and from my classmates. If you are thinking of doing pre-nursing and healthcare, I would highly recommend doing it in Croom.”

One-Year Equine Studies - Horsemanship Post-Leaving Cert, Croom College of Further Education (CCFE)

“My name is Sarah Jane Moran and I completed the Horsemanship Course (QQI Level 5) in Croom. I really enjoyed the practical elements of it and also the classroom learning. The work experience module helped me build my CV and meet people in the equine industry.”

One-Year Sports, Recreation & Exercise Post-Leaving Cert, Croom College of Further Education (CCFE)

“My name is Sophie Moroney. I found the Sports course in Croom to be very worthwhile and rewarding. I am now working in a Leisure Centre which I enjoy but it has always been my dream to be a P.E. teacher. I am delighted to say that I have been accepted to study P.E. Teaching in University of Limerick. This Further Education and Training course has prepared me for the next 4 years.”


Youthreach is a full-time programme, usually over two years, for young people, aged 15 to 20, who left school early and are not working. It leads to awards typically at levels 3 and 4 on the NFQ. Learners are supported in setting individual learning plans aimed at increasing their self-esteem, skills and knowledge and ability to get a job. The programme usually provides two years integrated education, training and work experience. Basic skills training, practical work training and general education are features of the programme, and the application of new technology is integrated into all aspects of programme content. There is a strong emphasis on personal development, on the core skills or literacy/numeracy, communications and IT, along with a choice of vocational options and a work experience programme. Having completed a Foundation Programme, you may continue to a Progression Programme. This will give you the opportunity to progress to the Leaving Certificate Applied course or a higher-level QQI award or you can choose to continue other skills training, such as an apprenticeship course. Learners on the Youthreach programme are entitled to receive training allowances. Additional allowances for meal, travel and accommodation are also available.


1. Personal and Social Development The foundation phase focuses on personal and social development with the aims including; • improvement in self-esteem and pro-social engagement, • self-identification of personal, social and learning difficulties and initial steps to address them, • development of self-confidence to enable learners to participate in society, • acquisition of a range of competencies and basic life skills essential for further learning and participation in civic society and the labour market.

2. Second-chance education Youthreach aims to support young people who have left school early with little or no qualification. It seeks to provide young people with knowledge and skills to help them to reach their full potential and enable them the opportunity to progress to further education, training and employment. Youthreach also provides an opportunity to ensure young people have a positive experience within education which may not always have been the case for these learners previously.

3. Integration into further education, training opportunities and the labour market. The progression phase provides a range of educational, training and work experience options to enable learners to have the knowledge, skills and confidence to enhance their employability so as to progress to further education, training, employment or other life choices.

Youthreach, Athy Co. Kildare

Stephanie Thompson was an early school leaver at age 14, who has gone from strength to strength after taking part in a Youthreach programme.

“I left school with no formal qualifications and from there I went to Youthreach in Athy Co. Kildare. I had enjoyed primary school, but I experienced bullying in secondary school and as a result I found it difficult to settle in or enjoy my studies. Youthreach was a completely different environment. I felt that it was far less pressurised than school and I had the benefit of continuous assessments and one to one support. The staff at Youthreach helped me in areas where I was struggling, both personally and academically. I felt supported in Youthreach and for the first time since leaving school I began to think about my goals and plans for the future.”

“Shortly after completing Youthreach I became pregnant with my son. My son was born with some health issues and later received a diagnosis of autism. As a consequence, my education had to be placed on hold. However, I always knew that returning to education was something I wanted to do. In 2014, when my son was three, I completed the Moving on Programme in St. Catherine’s Community Service Centre in Co. Carlow. The programme is a back to education initiative for young mothers and was extremely beneficial to me as a steppingstone back into education.”

“The following year, I enrolled on a PLC course in Carlow Institute of Further Education. I was successful in this and from there I applied to undertake a law degree in Carlow Institute of Technology. I enjoyed every moment of my law degree and I knew before its completion that I wanted to apply for a master’s degree. I was very privileged to be offered a place on the MA in Comparative Criminology and Criminal Justice at Maynooth University. I completed my Masters in August 2019 and achieved a 1.1 grade. I was then invited to join the Law Department in Maynooth University as a Research Assistant. Since taking up that role I have worked on various research projects which have resulted in two co-authored articles and a policy and practice document which are currently under consideration for publication in 2020/2021.

I was also given the opportunity to teach criminal law to first year undergraduate students at Maynooth in the second semester of this year. I am presently seeking PhD funding so that I can undertake a full time PhD commencing this year. It is my goal to eventually become a full-time lecturer and to continue to contribute to academia in the area of law and criminology. I especially accredit Youthreach for supporting me during a time when I believed that my education was lost.”

Youthreach, Pleasants Street Co. Dublin

Pleasants Street Youthreach are celebrating the remarkable achievement of a 19-year-old student Cian Comerford who beat hundreds of other students to secure a coveted place on the NUI Maynooth Turn to Teaching Programme. This will see Cian embark on a one-year course that prepares students to progress onto Initial Teacher Education degree programmes. The course was created to diversify the modern-day classroom and give students from disadvantaged backgrounds and through the power of education, the ability to reach students like themselves. Cian hopes to eventually be a fully qualified second-level teacher.

Youthreach, Crumlin, Co. Dublin

After graduating from Crumlin Youthreach, Siobhan progressed to Inchicore College of Further Education (ICFE) to undertake a PLC in Travel and Tourism (Level 5). She further progressed to a degree course and has just come to end of year 1 at TU Dublin where she is studying for a Bachelor of Arts in Hospitality Management (Level 7). She keeps in contact with Crumlin Youthreach, which has provided support to Siobhan in some of her TU Dublin course modules. The support took the form of early morning lessons with one of the teachers, with support sessions having to be moved online once the Crumlin Youthreach building was closed due to the COVID19 pandemic, this is a testament to Siobhan’s determination to succeed.

Youthreach, Crumlin, Co. Dublin

“Crumlin Youthreach encouraged me to explore education in a creative way. I felt listened to and empowered to pursue my goals. Not only was I supported in my own choices, but I was gently encouraged to try new things and I and really glad I did. When I had off days everyone was understanding, and I was still able to do some minimal work which made me feel good for still growing and making progress.”

“When I decided to apply for Law, my coordinator was amazing and went above and beyond to help me find a work placement in a solicitor’s law firm. This gave me the connections and confidence to continue reaching for my dreams. With support from Crumlin Youthreach I was able to enrol in a Law and Business course in Rathmines College which I went onto get 11 distinctions in. I would not have been able to get such great scores in math if it wasn’t for my tutor Dave’s extra morning classes at Youthreach.”

“You can come to Youthreach if you want to take steps towards educations and finding a path for yourself in life. You will be supported whether you chose to take study seriously or even light-heartedly, you will leave with new skills and confidence to help you in your journey.”

Youthreach, Crumlin, Co. Dublin

After graduating from Crumlin Youthreach, Kelsey progressed to Inchicore College of Further Education (ICFE) to study Creative Writing and is currently studying English and Creative Writing in University College Dublin (UCD).

“There’s an ever-standing stigma surrounding the leaving of school and attending Youthreach that has yet to be debunked. From personal experience, it exists within the fear of parents and the lack of confidence and faith of the students. For example, the issue that comes to mind is 'what will they get out of it?' Anxieties surrounding its effectiveness, 'they’ll slack off and go nowhere' 'you're better off getting a job', 'they're all wasters in there'. While this can be attributed to the lack of effort and willingness of some, the majority of those I have been with in Youthreach with have progressed far beyond their previous abilities."

"Once in the centre and welcomed by all the hardworking tutors, it becomes clear the multiple options, one has in terms of their academic and practical achievements i.e. food safety, manual handling and software qualifications as well as creative arts such as photography, writing and painting. The modules in place and the system of teaching builds an intimate and trusting relationship with that of the student and the tutor. This close learning environment engages the students in a way that is impossible to achieve in traditional schooling in turn creating less pressure and handing the students education into their own hands developing independence and responsibility."

"It would be a lie to say that every student that leaves Youthreach goes out with a shining career in mind, however it is right and correct to say that they leave, one step above the situation they were in before whether that be through developing personal behaviour or learning more about the functions of everyday life or with the training needed to enter the workplace. In my personal experience, it is perplexing to reflect on my grades before leaving school and to my grades now in my second year of college, from Cs and Ds to all A’s in semester two of my second year. I cannot dismiss Youthreach’s role in helping me achieve this."

"As mentioned before, I had a severe lack of confidence in my education before entering Youthreach, as I felt I wasn’t smart or never could be, however to my surprise it's all a learning curve. What I learned is there's no such thing as not being smart, that once one puts their head to something, it can be learned. I found that everyone was struggling in the same place as I was which eased the tensions of competition seen in secondary education. But the tutors taught us that being smart doesn't undermine the progression into either the work force or further education, that it takes one step at a time to understand things, and pace was really what mattered. Taking things slow and having the time to reflect while in discussions and hearing the tutor's own experiences with education opened my eyes and gave me that confidence to reach for whatever I wanted to achieve."

"I chose to further my education as I wanted to test myself instead of questioning whether I'd fail, and it turned out to be the right decision. However again, I cannot say that it is for everyone. I'd like to advocate and say that anyone could enter third level if they tried hard enough, although the want might not be there. I'd like to see more mental health facilities and critical thinking skills brought into the centre to ensure that on leaving the students are in a safe and willing position to progress and has become a better person as a result. Youthreach brought me options that I would have never gotten had I not left school and I am ever thankful to all the staff the pushed me to get where I am today.”

Many of you have already mapped out the next few years in terms of your studies – but it certainly doesn’t hurt to explore other options.

For further information on apprenticeships, traineeships, PLC courses and how to apply for them, contact your local ETB. Contact details can be found at this link

To explore the range of further education and training courses on offer check out the FETCH Courses hub at

Cavan & Monaghan Education & Training Board

Cork Education & Training Board

City of Dublin Education & Training Board

Donegal Education & Training Board

Dublin & Dun Laoghaire Education & Training Board

Galway & Roscommon Education & Training Board

Kerry Education & Training Board

Kildare & Wicklow Education & Training Board

Kilkenny & Carlow Education & Training Board

Laois & Offaly Education & Training Board

Limerick & Clare Education & Training Board

Longford & Westmeath Education & Training Board

Louth & Meath Education & Training Board

Mayo, Sligo & Leitrim Education & Training Board

Tipperary Education & Training Board

Waterford & Wexford Education & Training Board

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