Aoife Walsh: ‘Some non-CAO options that students may want to think about now’

Guidance counsellor Aoife Walsh
Article from the March 13 2019

While sixth-year students are very busy preparing for practical and oral exams, it is a quiet time of the year in relation to the CAO. Of course, this does not mean that students should not be thinking about life after the Leaving Cert and there are a number of non-CAO options they can consider now, including these:


The ESB is currently heavily engaged in a marketing campaign to recruit apprentices to their electrical apprentice scheme. The application process closes on March 25. This apprenticeship has been running for many years now and is extremely popular.

Applicants must hold at least a Junior Cert with Irish, English, maths, science and two other subjects. However, as competition is likely to be high, a strong Leaving Cert may be helpful. The application form will take 60 minutes to complete and will time out if left inactive for too long.

Applicants will also be asked to take an online aptitude test in five different areas. These will include verbal reasoning, spatial awareness, mechanical/technical, logical reasoning, numerical reasoning. Interested applicants will find more information by phoning 1890 393939 or by emailing

Recruitment is also open for a number of other apprenticeships, including Ryanair’s aircraft maintenance and engineering apprenticeship and Bus Eireann’s heavy vehicle mechanic apprentice.

See also the website.


The Racing Academy and Centre of Education (RACE) based in Kildare offers training for careers in the equestrian industry. Programmes include jockey and trainer courses, stable hand and management courses, as well as farrier training. The trainee jockey course is a 42-week residential programme, which allows graduates to become apprentice jockeys. It is also recognised by QQI as a Level 4 award. The assistant trainer course will allow graduates to obtain an assistant trainer’s licence and progress towards a full trainer’s licence. Graduates will also receive a FETAC Level 5 award.

Further education courses

As you can see from our important career dates list, this week there are a number of further education colleges holding open days and interview sessions. I have been approached by some sixth-year students this week who have asked me if it is too late to apply for a PLC. We have been encouraging our sixth-year students to apply for further education courses since November, however there are always some who choose not to do this.

Perhaps it is receiving less than ideal mock results that has focused minds. Regardless of the reason, I am glad to say it is not too late to apply.

All applicants should be aware, however, that further education colleges will continue to meet and interview applicants until all their places have been filled. Popular courses fill up quickly and some may already have their quota of students. However, not all those places may be taken up, so there could be availability down the line. Therefore, it is essential for students to apply now if they have not already done so. This will allow them to head into their mocks and orals safe in the knowledge that they have a college place waiting for them in September.

Aoife Walsh is a guidance counsellor at Malahide Community School, Co Dublin

TRAINING FEES WAIVED Thousands of builders and trades people could be entitled to hundreds of euros in refunds from training courses from Solas

By Adam Higgins and Mark May9th March 2019, 8:30 amUpdated: 8th March 2019, 11:16 pm

People who have taken Solas courses could be owed refunds

THOUSANDS of builders and trades people could be due refunds for training courses from Solas, the Irish Sun can reveal.

The State training agency — formerly FAS — has admitted a potential fee waiver for unemployed punters and medical card holders was not flagged up on their website.

Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice, who has raised the issue in the Dail, told the Irish Sun: “My understanding is that builders will be able to apply for a refund for the waiver fee.

“People who were getting unemployment benefits and went to do these courses should have paid less because of these waivers.”

Fitzmaurice added: “Builders who had been on unemployment and did a CSCS course should get in touch with Solas to see if they’re eligible for this refund.”

Builders or tradespeople who want to up-skill can complete Constructions Skills Certification Scheme courses in order to work with scaffolding, cranes, diggers and other speciality tools.

Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice

For example, a one-day forklift refresher course costs €260, a one-day excavator course costs €450 and a three-day crane co-ordinator course will set someone back €895.

Some €40 of the course fees is used to cover a charge from Quality and Qualifications Ireland for a certificate.

However, people who are unemployed or in receipt of a medical card are entitled to a waiver for this fee — which ­participants of courses were never made aware of.

Solas has recently updated its website in order to allow participants to download the application form for the Quality and Qualifications waiver.

Minister for Education and Skills John Halligan

However, thousands of workers, who have completed the courses over the past decade while in receipt of unemployment benefits, could now be entitled to a refund of their €40 certificate fee.

Often workers will go through a number of these courses, so some people could be entitled to hundreds of euros in refunds. It is understood that the fee waiver relates to courses taken since 2008.

Between 2014 and 2017, over 43,000 certificates were handed out by the QQI relating to CSCS courses. So potential payouts could run into the millions.

In response to a Parliamentary Question, Minister of State for Training and Skills John Halligan confirmed that punters could be owed money.

Halligan said that anybody eligible for a waiver should apply to their Approved Training Organisation.

The Minister added: “Any persons who believe that they are eligible to a waiver in respect of QQI certification fees already paid are advised to submit a waiver fee request to the Solas Construction Services Unit, giving evidence of unemployment/medical card details at the time.”

Fitzmaurice had also asked Halligan why Solas and QQI were continuing to “pass the responsibility” of eligible people applying for a waiver to the certification fees “from one to the other”.

A spokeswoman for the QQI explained: “QQI has no direct ­relationship with individual learners, it does not charge fees to individual learners nor does it receive fees from individual ­learners.”

The spokeswoman added that those eligible should apply directly to Solas for a refund