Why Third Level Education?
Colleges of Further Education, or PLC Colleges as they used to be known, are a relatively new concept in Ireland, emerging from the traditional post leaving courses in existence for the past twenty years or so. FE Colleges exist in most of the major towns and cities in the country. They usually provide one or two year courses of either training or academic study leading to work or to further study in Institutes of Technology or Universities. It is possible to get a job after leaving certificate but to get your foot on the rung of the ladder leading to a career as opposed to a job some kind of training is necessary. Employers no longer have the time to train new employees. They expect them to come ‘trained’ for work.
So why would you think of choosing one of these types of colleges? People come for all sorts of reasons and at all ages. You might be undecided about a career or about a course of study so you come to ‘test the waters’ and try work experience, which is compulsory, in every area. You might have just missed out on points for your preferred area and want to try entry by the alternative, although slightly longer, FE route to your degree course. You might not want just at the moment to take on a 3 or 4-year degree course but you would like some proper form of training and study that will equip you with knowledge and skills to take up worthwhile employment. Later on you can always dip in and out of the education system at night classes or by distance education if you want to add to your qualifications.
You may already have tried study at third level and decided it is not for you at the moment. You may have been made redundant recently or want to change your career path. Again there are such a variety of courses available in FE Colleges that you are almost spoiled for choice. If early retirement was an option or imposed then you have the opportunity to re-think your current position.
All courses have modules that are specific to them but there are some mandatory modules (subjects) across the range of courses and these are useful. In Communications, for example, you learn how to conduct business using all types of media, whether electronic or traditional, and you will have also learned how vital positive communication is for an organisation. By the time you are finished even that important interview you are destined for presents no problems.
Classes are usually relatively small, and because assessment is based on a mixture of projects, assignments and examinations, anyone who is positive, who works hard and submits assignments on time can do very well. If you begin falling behind there are support systems in place in all colleges. Early in the year Study Skills Seminars are available to all students. To help you decide what is available to you at the end of your course a Guidance and Counselling Service is available.
Later whether you are submitting an entry to the CAO for third level in Ireland, to UCAS in Britain, or thinking about your career area, a guidance counsellor is available for consultation on a one-to-one basis. All in all, Colleges of Further Education are places of opportunity, are welcoming, supportive and constantly evolving. They are well known to employers in their respective communities and they are constantly building on relations with third level institutions in Ireland and further afield. Perhaps they are an opportunity knocking for you.
This article was kindly contributed by Teresa Stack – Deputy Principal of Drogheda Institute of Further Education