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Are you suitable for PLC Courses?

It is now time to take a look a PLC Courses. Now that you have your CAO form out of the way it is a good time to take a look at what is available outside the CAO.

The PLC area, now referred to as the Further Education Sector, offers 1,000 courses in more than 200 centres nation-wide, with 24,700 students taking part annually in these one and two year programmes. Over the twenty years since their introduction, the perception of PLC courses has changed greatly. These courses are no longer regarded as being suitable only for those who do not get a place in a third level college. A recent survey on CAO acceptances revealed that 15% of those who received an offer in 1997 opted instead for a PLC course.

Courses include everything from Dance to Professional Computer courses, as well as the more familiar such as Business, Marketing, Childcare, Fashion Design, Art and Design, Teleservices, Computer Applications, Law, Fitness and Leisure Management, Beauty Therapy, Pre-nursing and Horticulture.

Unlike CAO courses, places are not awarded on the basis of points - entry to all courses is by direct application to the college, usually followed by an interview. PLC courses are of one and two years duration, have no fees, are grant aided (means tested as for third level) and involve a work placement.


How to apply

Local VECs (Vocational Education Committees) and some second level schools offer PLC courses. As of yet there is no central application system for PLCs so students must apply individually to each college; most colleges require an interview.

At interview, colleges attempt to match students to courses and to ensure that students understand the nature of the courses for which they have applied.

A list of approved courses and centres is available from your Guidance Counsellor or the Further Eductation Sector in the Department of Education and Science. (Tel: (01) 8892428 / 8892432)

Application forms and prospectuses are available from the individual colleges and completed forms may be returned throughout the year. However, popular courses tend to fill up as early as April. Some colleges hold interviews in May but interviews are also held in September and in some cases places are offered right up to the start of the courses.

Each college has its own procedures - some require a 30 non-refundable deposit with the application form while others do not require a 30 deposit unless they are actually offering a place. Additional costs that should be borne in mind are student services 30-100; examination fees 25 - 500 (the latter for Professional Computer courses); books and materials, rent, food and social life.

Finally, it is important to check out the quality and suitabiltity of a course with your Guidance Counsellor and with students who have already taken the course.

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Another Way into College

Via the NCVA Links Scheme

What is the Higher Education Links Scheme?
The Higher Education Links Scheme enables students who have achieved National Vocational Certification at Level 2 (i.e. students who have satisfactorily completed eight NCVA course modules, including the Communications module ) to apply for a Higher Education place in a range of higher education institutions. Approximately 2,000 places are available on over 250 courses - specific NCVA certificates are linked with these higher education courses. The prospectuses of the higher education colleges give the relevant details.

Where can I apply for a college place?
Sixteen higher education institutions are partners in the scheme. See list of participating institutions below. Discussions are ongoing with the universities with a view to extending the scheme.

How do I apply through the scheme?
  • Applications for a higher education place through the scheme are made using the standard CAO form. Instructions are provided in the current CAO Handbook.
  • Use the NCVA Higher Education Links Guide to find out:
    (i) the Level 2 National Vocational Certificates that are linked to higher education courses (Part 1).
    (ii) the higher education courses that are available in the participating institutions (Part 2).
    (iii) where applicable, modules which must be included in your certificate (Part 2).
It is essential that you verify what NCVA Level 2 certificate is required for the college course of your choice. Check certificate and module details with your PLC centre and the participating institutions.

How does the application process work?
Higher Education Links Scheme applicants submit their third-level applications to the CAO in the usual way. In July, NCVA Level 2 results are issued to the CAO and the participating institutions. Applicants through the scheme are assessed as follows:
  • Each NCVA module is credited - three points allocated for a distinction, two points allocated for a merit and one point allocated for a pass.
  • All of the points are totalled and applicants are ranked according to this "total grade point" figure.
  • Places are offered in ranked order until the quota is complete for each course.
Where can I get further information?
The institutions' prospectuses provide information on the scheme and the third-level courses. The admissions office of the institutions can be contacted directly. It is also worthwhile contacting the institutions to which you are applying to check the number of places reserved for NCVA Level 2 students.

Participating institutions
  • Athlone Institute of Technology
  • Institute of Technology Blanchardstown
  • Institute of Technology Carlow
  • Cork Institute of Technology
  • Dublin Institute of Technology
  • Dundalk Institute of Technology
  • Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology
  • Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology
  • Letterkenny Institute of Technology
  • Limerick Institute of Technology
  • National College of Ireland
  • Institute of Technology Sligo
  • Institute of Technology Tallaght
  • Tipperary Rural and Business Development Institute
  • Institute of Technology Tralee
  • Waterford Institute of Technology
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Are you suitable for PLC courses?

While Further Education may not be for you, it is a good idea to look at the wide range of courses on offer and by doing so give yourself the broadest possible choice. Students for whom PLC courses are suitable fall into the following categories:
  • Leaving Certificate students who want to gain employable skills and enter the workforce within one or two years of leaving school. The last survey taken of PLC Graduates from 1997 shows that 64% found work, with 16% of those in part-time jobs and the remainder in full-time employment. The employment rate in Computers, Business Administration and Construction Studies is often 100%.
  • Students who are still undecided about their course/career choice. Sometimes students who defer a third level place for a year change their minds about the direction they wish to take.
  • Students who want to acquire good computer skills before going on to third level education.
  • Students who have done the Leaving Certificate and wish to prepare a good portfolio in areas such as Art and Design or Photography in order to secure a place in a third level college in Ireland or in the UK.
  • Students who do not gain sufficient points for a particular course in a third level college and who are seeking an alternative route into a third level college. In fact, 24% of the 1997 PLC graduates proceeded to third level colleges. Students who are considering this route into third level should get a copy of the NCVAs (National Council for Vocational Awards) Guide to the Higher Education Links Scheme, which sets out the various paths. (See Another Way into College) [Tel: (01) 8372211]
  • Mature students who wish to return to study or the workforce.
  • Graduates who want to acquire employable skills e.g. Computer skills.
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