Money Times - November 29, 2016

Posted by Jill Kerby on November 29 2016 @ 09:00



Christmas may be coming, but in households all over Ireland parents and teenaged children are also anticipating something of far more significance:  where they will go for their post-secondary education.

CAO forms are being carefully scrutinised as the Leaving Cert exams loom and the majority who do continue their education will opt for an academic course in a college or university, rather than an apprenticeship or other qualification, and that is a terrible shame as well as a waste of time, talent, enthusiasm and money. It is one of the contributing factors to why we have a pretty consistent college drop-out rate of first year students – about 20%-25%.

According to Solas, the Further Training and Education Authority, not enough sixth year students and their parents are being directed to explore the vast programme of training programmes and apprenticeships that can lead to well paying jobs and careers. A university degree even for children who struggle academically is the ‘golden ticket’, especially for middle and higher earning families.

I met recently with both Solas and the Cavan Monaghan Education and Training Board (CMETB) about how 2017 will see an even greater broadening of post-Leaving Cert courses, other training programmes and apprenticeships, including a post third-level graduate ‘apprenticeship’ in financial services that will be rolled out at the National College of Ireland. (25 new apprenticeships were added in 2016.)

Long gone are the days when training programmes were mainly directed at the unemployed; and apprenticeships, of which there are 9,000 were nearly exclusively trades-based, Nikki Gallagher of Solas told me. 

Further education takes in everything from construction, manufacturing and technology sectors, in finance as well as construction, food and hospitality, medical services, manufacturing, and science and technology. There are job training schemes for budding hairdressers, artists, craftworkers, as well as medical device and aerospace technicians. Would your young person like to become an equestrian instructor?  There’s a 44 week, internationally recognised course starting in January at the Castle Leslie estate in Monaghan, Catherine Fox of CMETB told me.

Apprentices are employees and paid while undergoing their training. But others on courses, depending on the institution, may qualify for meal, travel and accommodation allowances. Some further education colleges may charge a small annual fee (usually less than €1,000) but Institutes of Education do not.

Even more significantly is that both institutions can offer the same further education course that can act as launch pads for university degrees that may not have been achieved via the CAO system.

Many nursing and related students at Irish and UK universities were accepted in year two of the degree programme after doing their first year in a science/nursing course at a higher education college, Fox explained. “FET students benefit from smaller classes and continuous assessment. They’re usually very disciplined and focussed. And they will also, in many cases be saving on the cost of fees for one or even two years before completing their degree at a college or university.”

The diversity of people undergoing further training to meet the needs of our new smart economy, is quite astonishing – there are 250,000 full and part time higher education and training places - 33,000 at higher education colleges and institutes. There is a course for school leavers (and even pre-school students), as well as mature adults; for the unemployed and people with full time jobs. Inclusion means Solas provides literacy and language training for minorities, refugees and newcomers who all want a good job or career. 

So why do so many young people end up in academia…and drop out?  Or fail to work in their graduate area?

Fox and Gallagher (both third level graduates) believe too much emphasis is put on academic achievement at junior level. Too  many of our young people are never given a chance to explore non-academic interests or the range of jobs and employers looking to hire and train them, in the case of apprenticeships.  Too many parents mistakenly equate high paying, secure, jobs with the professions..

And there’s the rub. Young doctors, lawyers, academics (in the case of my family) spend up to 10 years achieving higher degrees before landing their first permanent position.  Unlike the young, apprenticed qualified electrician or aerospace technician or even investment analyst who started earning at 22 or 23, and was quickly on their way to financial and personal milestones (which even include a pension), the professionals’ were delayed will into their 30s. 

Too  many young workers are all facing employment conditions their (older) parents did not: unpaid internships; temporary and part-time contracts, and very little security outside the public service. By only focussing on third level academic degrees and ignoring other paths, like further education training and apprenticeships you only add to that uncertainty.

This holiday, explore the training and apprenticeship options (especially with your non-academic children). Tell them they are free to study and train for any job or career.

Here’s where to start: www.solas.ie and www.fetchcourses.ie

Do you have a question for Jill?  Please email her directly at jill@jillkerby.ie.





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