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Pathways to third-level education promoted through CAO changes – Dolan

5th November 2021 - Aisling Dolan

Students will be able to see the full range of higher education options on the CAO website from today, a Fine Gael Senator has said.

Senator Aisling Dolan, Fine Gael’s Spokesperson for Education, said, “Over recent years, we’ve had a societal shift in terms of our thinking about third-level education. We now know the ‘one size fits all’ model of encouraging all young people to attend university does not best serve the needs of every single student.

“Secondary school students must be aware of the opportunities that exist post Leaving Cert. We need to amplify the message that there is far more than just progressing on to university for young people to consider. Students’ wellbeing has to come first, and we must deal with the pressure over points which leads to so many following the traditional route to college. This is a huge issue for families all around the country as we can see from high dropout rates in first year.

“Today is such an important day in showcasing the range of options we have available to our young people. The changes on the CAO website will allow our students see over 400 Post Leaving Cert (PLC) courses and 62 apprenticeship programmes available to them.

“Fine Gael has made access to education a priority and Minister Simon Harris has made important changes to removing barriers to third level. From September 2022, the €200 levy to take part in a PLC Course will be abolished, which will apply to every PLC course in ETBs across the country.

“A guidance counselling service will also be established to assist people seeking an apprenticeship.  Apprenticeships are practical and valuable opportunities for young people, as well as those looking to return to education, to consider. This option allows people to earn a QQI qualification, while also managing costs for further and higher education. The demand for apprenticeships is growing at the moment, with €20 million in capital funding to expand apprenticeships provision. This funding will support the delivery of an additional almost 4,000 craft apprentice places annually.

“For people who might be unsure about what they wish to study, today’s changes will show you there are so many options available across our third level. Crucially, it will ensure students can reach their career of choice through many different pathways and they will have all of the information to best equip them to make a decision that allows them to reach their potential.”

The CAO website goes live at 12pm today. There will be approximately 430 PLC courses available via the weblink and a one-stop-shop for information and guidance on national apprenticeships will be available via a link on with information on how to become an apprentice, what you will earn while you learn and the qualifications you will achieve.

All applications for further education and apprenticeships will continue to be made through the traditional channels, though applicants will be now also able to navigate to these channels from the CAO website.

Speaking today, Minister Harris said: “I really want to pay tribute to the CAO, Solas and ETBI for coming together to bring this to this point. This is an important day for this Department and our third level sector.

“For the first time ever, the full range of third level options will be visible to school-leavers from one single platform. This will change the conversation at kitchen tables across the country – one that reflects education is for everyone and there is no right or wrong choice, just different ones.”

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