Students view Post-Leaving Cert (PLC) courses as low ranking alternatives for those who did not obtain a sufficient level of points to enter third level, according to findings from the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).
The study, published by the Department of Education, gathered information on the role played by PLC courses in the Irish job market by evaluating students’ job prospects after completing a PLC courses, as well as students’ attitudes towards PLC courses.
The ESRI study showed that although PLC courses do boost employment prospects and access to higher education, they have not successfully evolved to meet the needs of modern students and the jobs currently available to them upon completing secondary school.
Although PLC enrollers were 16% more likely to find employment and 27% more likely to move on to higher education after completing their course when compared to those who left education completely after finishing the Leaving Cert, the study found that PLC courses are “poorly connected” to both employers and modern practices in the Irish job market. The study concluded that this was due to a failure to move forward with changes that have occurred nationally in recent years.
Following the publication of the report, Bruton and SOLAS committed to implementing over 40 recommendations. These include employer engagement becoming a mandatory aspect of all new PLC courses, the allocation of 500 ‘pre-apprenticeship’ courses with the aim of students continuing to a full apprenticeship, and allowing more flexibility for students.
People who entered the PLC programme had on average fewer qualifications, scoring typically between 200 and 400 CAO points. This compares to a national average of between 300 to 500 points. The ESRI study found that a high proportion of PLC students tended to be older females from a less-educated background, who often have children.
Minister for Education, Richard Bruton, responded to the independent evaluation of PLC courses. “I am determined to increase the range and quality of the pathways for people to fulfil their career ambitions during my time as Minister. If we want to be the best in Europe by 2026, we need to ensure that we provide many different opportunities for people to achieve their ambitions.”
Professor Seamus McGuinness, an author of the ESRI report, stated that although PLC courses are beneficial and positive tools for students looking to enter employment after secondary school, more must be done to ensure they have a better connection to the job market. “It is also important to challenge the idea that PLC courses are ‘second-best’ compared to higher education.”
As of 2017 there were in excess of 32,000 people enrolled in a PLC course, with the cost per individual estimated at €5,200 and totalling at around €170 million annually.