Further training and education a real alternative for higher education

Although decades ago higher education for a select number of people was preserved, there is no doubt that the transition to a university or institute for technology after the Leaving Cert has become the new normal. The emphasis placed on traveling through the CAO route ensures that Ireland sends more students to the third level than any other country in the EU.

However, fitness for the third level is a growing concern with a study by the Higher Education Authority earlier this year, which shows that about 14 percent (5800) first-year students do not move on to the second year of their education.

However, further education and training (FET) now begins to offer a real alternative for higher education, regardless of the number of points earned in the Leaving Cert.

"I think our time is right now," says Andrew Brownlee, executive director, strategy and knowledge with Solas. The state body was established in 2013 and works mainly with the 16 Education and Training Boards (ETBs) of the country, industry and government institutions and bodies to provide a wide range of options for school leavers, the unemployed and people who have Skill, via post. Leave courses, internships and internships, together with courses in the fields of literacy, arithmetic and ICT.

Solas is responsible for financing, planning and coordinating the FET program, while the other agencies, such as ETBs, provide the courses and training courses.

"We are truly a valuable resource, and I think that when people talk about the financing crisis in higher education, it is always based on the assumption that we will still send 60 percent of our school leavers directly to higher education – to a institute for technology or university ", says Brownlee.

"It is worthwhile to have a conversation about whether there is another option and whether there is a basis for those school leavers who may actually be better suited to follow-up training and to receive training in instead of an education for higher education, even if that is a step in the right direction, to the last one, "he says.

Although the option is often overlooked, especially by school leavers and their parents, the number that is actually involved in further education is considerable.

This year, 339,000 people are involved in 22,000 FET courses in the 16 ETBs of the country with a total investment of 647 million euros in the sector.

Ambitious goals

And Solas has plans to further increase the number of people it is involved in. Her Corporate Plan 2017-2019 formulates some ambitious goals: register 10,000 additional students per year from 2018; an increase of 10 percent in the number of learners who find work after their FET training; and an increase of 10 percent of students who move on to other FET courses or higher education.

The range of FET courses offered through Solas is huge, but an important element for curriculum is offering curricula and training with a shortage of skills in Ireland. Currently, the Skills and Labor Market (SLMRU) research unit, an expert group for future skill needs, identified shortcomings in science, technology, ICT, construction, healthcare, business and finance, and the food industry.

Together with the SLMUR, ETBs also have an important role to play in identifying skill shortages, Brownlee says.

"The ETBs are those who are really connected to local industry and employers, so they have a big role to play in terms of taking that national labor market information and translating it to a local and regional level and working out , through contact with local employers, where the question is.

"Fundamentally she [ETBs] are those on the ground and are best placed to judge – is there a demand for this course? And if someone goes through this course, is there a good chance at work at the end of the course? That is why internships are so fundamentally part of FET, which is perhaps not the case in higher education. There is a big, big emphasis in most of FET around giving our students practical work experience as part of their course. "

Solas recently agreed to link its database to the databases of the Central Bureau of Statistics on work and higher education. By doing so, Brownlee says: "we will know what happened to each student and that will be a big step forward, because there will be no discussion about the impact of FET".

Given the focus on skill shortages, Brownlee emphasizes that Solas now emphasizes a move away from "broad amenities where people can use FET and follow a general certificate or general program such as social sciences or business or art", focusing on more specific areas such as childcare, electrical or cyber security.

"You certainly see it, especially in the post-Leaving Cert facility, which turns away from that more general type of provision and clearly focuses on national skills," he says.

Besides a lack of skills, Solas also wants to improve a "core function" of FET: students can see clear progress from one course to another, or from a course to work.

"We have a task to make sure that the counseling services can clearly explain the possibilities to the student and where they can go at the end of their courses, and also in terms of delivering the labor market information people will tell – if you This path, here are the different professions and careers that are open to you, and here are the advantages of participating in that career, where we really focus on ", says Brownlee.

Offering apprenticeships

Solas also works with the industry in offering internships. The number of these has grown in recent years and Solas now has the goal to offer 70 pupils in 2020, involving 30,000 pupils. Currently, there are 13,000 trainees and approximately 5,000 employers involved in 36 trainees.

While traditional apprenticeship services such as motor mechanics, carpentry and construction continue, the variety of offered courses has been extended to areas where they would not have been offered traditionally. These include insurance, international financial services, ICT, executive training, accounting, auctioning and real estate services, with logistics, retail, quality laboratories and OEM engineering expected to start later this year.

Traditionally, school-leavers would have taken a place in higher education to gain access to a career in these industries. These paid apprenticeships – typically up to two years with a combination of on-the-job learning and classroom theory, either online or at an institute of technology – mean that there are now more ways than one in certain industries, regardless of points earned in the Leaving cert.

"There is almost a race to leave the CAO route and some options beyond that, such as an internship," says Maria Walsh of the Solas Communications Unit.

"If you are the type of person who benefits from learning in a working environment and then also learn online, then that is the route you have to choose, we do not say that it is a second option, it is an option of equal [to a higher education route]. It is simply a question of an individual who is aware of it and chooses the path that best suits them for the career they want. "

For more information about FET, see solas.ie; fetch.ie; apprenticeship.ie.

Skills shortage

The Skills and Labor Market Unit (SLMRU) has identified the following skills shortages in Ireland:

Science: Liver deficiency refers mainly to experienced candidates (for example, five years or more) and niche scientific areas that are typically associated with the pharmaceutical, bio-pharmaceutical and food innovation sectors. In particular there is a demand for scientists with experience in the field of compliance, regulation and development of new products. Deficits also identified for chemists / analytical scientists and analysts for quality control.

Technic: Process and design (including research and development); quality control / quality assurance; automation; chemical; validation; electrical and mechanical (polymer technology / injection molding); collaborate with technician in quality assurance / control, process, extrusion and maintenance.

ICT: Software developers (mobile [IoS/android]database, web, cloud); engineers (network, database, QA, automated performance testers, devops); systems / solutions / database architects; cybersecurity analysts; network security; Business Intelligence solutions; IT managers and business analysts (especially system migration and IT project management); and technicians (troubleshooting, technical support with languages ​​and database administrators).

Company and financial professionals: Financial and management accountants with expertise in the area of ​​solvency, taxes, compliance with laws and regulations; actuaries; business intelligence and risk analysts; financial system analysts; data analysis; salary managers; multilingual financial clerks (credit controllers, creditors / receivers, payroll specialists, funds for fund administration and transfer pricing specialists).

Healthcare: Hospital doctors; registrars; medical specialists; advanced nurses; registered nurses; clinical nursing managers; radiologically; and niche field specialists (audiologists, heart technicians, dietitians).

Construction: Build project managers; quantity of surveyors; construction services / structural / site engineers; curtain wallers; glaziers; steel fixatives; steel fitters; pipe layers; formwork; carpentry; shift work; and supervisors.

others: TIG / MIG welders; skilled butchers / disinfectants; chefs; caretakers. The strong performance of the high-tech manufacturing sector stimulates the demand for tool skills, especially for people with expertise in making extremely complex precision tools.

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