The Minister for Education and Skills Richard Bruton T.D., today announced and responded to the publication of an independent evaluation of the Post-Leaving Certificate (PLC) programme.
If we want to have the best education and training service in Europe by 2026, we need to provide a range of pathways for people to fulfil their career ambitions. The PLC programme is the largest of the full time further education and training programmes with over 30,000 places and an investment of over €160 million each year.
The report, which was carried out by the ESRI, confirms the positive role played by PLC provision. On average PLC learners are 16% more likely to be in employment than if they had just entered the labour market straight after the Leaving Certificate.
The report also highlights a number of challenges for policy development in the PLC sector indicating a need for greater responsiveness of job-specific PLC courses to changing labour market conditions in terms of the types of courses offered and closer links with employers, as well as enhanced guidance for learners and extra training for teaching staff.
The findings from the evaluation have been considered and the Minister and SOLAS have committed to implementing over 40 recommendations in response, including:
- Allocating 500 PLC places nationally to new ‘pre-apprenticeship’ courses. These will give those going on to do apprenticeships a strong foundation and knowledge base and will give employers further confidence in the apprentices joining their company.
- Ensuring that in future all courses will lead to Full/Major awards at NFQ Level 5 or NFQ Level 6 or equivalent.
- Providing more flexibility for students. Providers are to be required to offer PLC outside of the full-time mode of delivery and to provide more flexibility e.g. distance, blended and on-line modes of delivery to be available to learners.
- More co-ordination at a local level on provision, led by ETBs.
- Employer engagement to become mandatory for new course proposals for job-specific/sector specific provision.
A PLC Programme Improvement Advisory Committee comprised of PLC partners and led by SOLAS will now be established to implement a programme improvement plan over the course of a three year period.
Publishing the evaluation today, Minister Bruton said
“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. The report being published today confirms the positive role played by PLC provision. On average PLC learners are 16% more likely to be in employment than if they had just entered the labour market straight after the Leaving Certificate.
“However, it does show some areas for improvement. Given the pace of change in the labour market and the increasing demand for new skills, we need to continuously adapt, change and make improvements based on evidence. I look forward to seeing the progress on the actions laid out in our response and I thank SOLAS for their work to date.”
Endorsing the plan, Minister for Skills, John Halligan, T.D. said ‘I am confident that the implementation of these recommendations will build on the success of the PLC programme and ensure we deliver high quality further education and training, supporting learners to achieve their progression and employment goals. PLC has a strong regional and local footprint and will support balanced regional growth, as it is planned and delivered alongside other FET and higher education provision.”
Speaking at the launch, Paul O’Toole, CEO of SOLAS said, “The PLC programme is a hugely important part of the Further Education and Training landscape. SOLAS welcomes today’s publication. The research has identified many benefits for the approximate 30,000 learners that do PLC coursers in Ireland each year. It also sets out a number of opportunities for enhancement of the programme as outlined in SOLAS’ response”
With origins in the late 1970s, PLC courses offer a combination of general studies, vocational studies and work experience opportunities, catering for young people who have completed their Leaving Certificate, adults returning to education and unemployed individuals wishing to upskill. It takes place usually on a full time basis over one academic year, leading to major awards at NFQ levels 5 and 6. It is the largest full time FET programme and is provided in colleges of further education across all 16 ETB areas. The programme is primarily delivered in the ETB sector with a smaller number of places in the voluntary, community and comprehensive sectors.
Resources are based on an overall national allocation of 32,000 places, although some colleges enrol beyond their allocation without attracting additional resources.
Overall annual expenditure on the PLC programme is circa €160 million, with the bulk of these resources allocated by the Department of Education and Skills through the post-primary allocation model.
Both the ESRI and the SOLAS Response will be available on the SOLAS website at www.solas.ie from 10am, 9 January
Information on FET
The SOLAS website provides a broad range of information on the FET sector, including programmes, investment, annual FET service plans, the SOLAS Corporate plan which can be accessed at www.solas.ie