New-look CAO website will link to PLCs and apprenticeships

School-leavers will have access to hundreds more courses at the touch of a button in a new look CAO website being unveiled within weeks.

he website is moving beyond being a gateway only to higher education courses in universities, institutes of technology and other third-level colleges.

There will also be instant access to information about 500 post-Leaving Cert (PLC) courses and a link to the expanding number of apprenticeship opportunities, both in the further education and training (FET) sector.

The initiative aims to provide greater visibility of post-school career routes with a one-stop shop of the main options and reducing the focus on the CAO as the only or preferred pathway.

The points race associated with the CAO causes high level of stress and, while many school-leavers are better suited to alternative forms of post-school study and training, the dominance of the CAO can blind them to other opportunities.

PLCs are one and two years’ duration and can lead straight to the workplace or act as a stepping-stone to higher education and are preferred by many students as a bridge between school and third-level.

With the new CAO portal, school-leavers and others will be able to check out about 500 PLC courses offered by education and training boards (ETB) around the country.

Initially, the plan as to run a pilot this year with PLCs from a limited number of ETBs, but it will have a nationwide offering of selected PLC courses that are most popular with school-leavers.

As well as PLCs, there are now 62 apprenticeships, with more in development, all linked to sectors of the economy with growing skills needs.

The new portal will launch for the new CAO application season, starting on November 5. While CAO applicants can apply online via the website, applications for further education and training opportunities will be through traditional channels.

Further and Higher Education Minster Simon Harris said “we need to get away from this national obsession with the points race and we need to actually show people there are many, many pathways.”

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