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

NCU Training has teamed up with CEEDs Clondalkin to deliver training in the South Dublin Area.


CEEDS announced the opening of their new, modernised IT training rooms and brand new Public Internet and Email Access on Monday 25th June 2018. With the help of generous grants from Google Ireland and The Holiday Home Project
Established in 1993, CEEDS, a voluntary organisation, is situated in Aras Rualach, Neilstown Road and has provided support services to the community since 1993.
After 25 years in the community, CEEDS is proud to continue still to provide much needed locally based services to their community and surrounding areas.
The Project aimed to provide the community with a Centre of Digital Excellence, with fast Internet facilities and the technology to continue to provide quality training for years to come.
Bearing in mind the changes in the IT sector, digital trends and upcoming changes in EU data policy (GDPR) they had to build a stable, reliable and future-proofed Training Centre. CEEDS donated their old equipment to Camara, a Global I.T charity donation program. There PC’s have found their new home in a School in Ethiopia, providing badly needed technical resources to an impoverished region.

Maria Flynn (Board Member ) Grace Wills and Eddie Costello (CEEDS) Stephanie Lavelle (Google) at the launch of the Training Facilities

The importance of QQI institutional reviews for students

We look at the academic, practical, and financial factors students should consider before deciding on a college or course
Tue, Jan 15, 2019, 00:00
Peter McGuire
from the Irish Times

Is a college education worth the cost?

Going to college isn’t cheap. First, there’s the cost of registration fees, currently capped at €3,000. Then students need to shell out for books, accommodation, transport, food and drink. Add in the cost of deferring full-time work for at least three years, even if the payback is better long-term employment prospects.

And this is before students even factor in the amount of public money necessary to support our colleges, universities and colleges of further education. Of course, these institutions are absolutely necessary to generate knowledge, critically examine the universe we live in and equip graduates with the skills they need for employment. But are we getting value for money from them, and what questions should prospective students ask to see if the higher-education sector is doing enough to ensure better outcomes?

Academic quality

When students are filling out the CAO form, or looking at their options for further education, how can they be sure their courses are of good quality? As it happens, this is closely monitored in Ireland.

Dr Padraig Walsh is chief executive of Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI), which promotes and regulates quality in the further- and higher-education sectors.

“We issue quality assurance guidelines on what the institution is expected to put in place: what a programme should consist of; how students can have an input into the various modules and be involved in the college’s governance; and how they assure the quality of their offering such as by involving external examiners, periodic evaluations and institutional reviews,” he explains.

Once every six years, QQI organises an institutional review, which explores the quality of its offering. Within each of these, the quality body will issue five recommendations where the institution can improve, and commend it in five areas where there are examples of good practice. In addition, each institution is required to submit an annual institutional quality report.
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“My daughter is a second-year law student in UCD and I sent her the institutional review in advance of her going, so she could get a feel for what it’s like to study there,” says Walsh. “A previous review said that there was not enough project-based assessment, and I understand that the university has made adjustments since.”

Is the university or college well run?

Let’s face it, these annual quality reports, published on the QQI website, aren’t the most exciting reading for your average sixth-year student. But, even if they’re never opened by prospective students, they do contain reassuring information. There are details there of how the institutions are governed, the research taking place in them, how students can transfer from one programme to another and the continuous professional development undertaken by lecturers.

Jim Miley is director general of the Irish Universities Association, which represents the seven universities in the Republic of Ireland. He points out that core State funding has fallen from €9,000 per student in 2009 to just €5,000 today, which is less than half of what is spent in top-performing European countries.

“There have been marginal increases in the last two budgets but they’re barely keeping pace with the growth in student numbers,” he says. “There hasn’t been a massive impact on students, however. Universities have taken in more international students, who pay higher fees, and also achieved efficiencies in the system. But there are no more efficiencies to squeeze out, and there is a risk that, unless we address some of the current gaps, it could take decades to recover.”

The 2018 Irish survey of student engagement, which interviewed more than 38,000 students across 27 higher-education institutions, suggests students are broadly happy with quality. When asked to rate their entire educational experience, 82 per cent said it was either good or excellent, while 85 per cent said they would go to the same institution if given a chance to start again.

Student accommodation

Miley says the last decade has seen substantial investment in student accommodation but there remains pressure due to the growing number of students.

The Host Student Accommodation under construction in Dublin’s Docklands. Photograph: Alan Betson
The Host Student Accommodation under construction in Dublin’s Docklands. Photograph: Alan Betson

Indeed, accommodation is now a significant consideration for students when deliberating their college choices. Many of the new units have been built by large property firms and kitted out as “luxury” accommodation, with costs of between €1,000-€1,500 a month. Students’ unions, including the Union of Students in Ireland, have accused private firms and universities of using students as “cash cows”.

Last year at DCU, students protested after rents at Shanowen Square surged by 27 per cent, with the college’s president, Brian MacCraith, notably coming out in support of the students. At NUI Galway, rents went up by 18 per cent at one student accommodation block. Rents at UCD have also climbed in recent years. There’s little genuine competition in the market and little option for students but to fork out or stay at home.

In 2018, a survey from the Irish League of Credit Unions found the number of students living at home had risen from 63 per cent to 69 per cent as a result of the high cost and low availability of accommodation.

Student life

Outside the accommodation sphere, section seven of the annual reports to QQI focus specifically on student support services, including counselling, accommodation, careers development, sports, societies and the students’ union, and they can provide useful information to people choosing their college course.

DCU is one university which has developed a student charter outlining what students can expect, including a comprehensive orientation programme to help students settle into university life, to be made aware of the appropriate and accessible resources to help them take responsibility for their learning, and to be offered “a dynamic range of opportunities to enhance personal and professional development”.

The charter also outlines what the university expects of students in return, including that they take responsibility for their own learning, that they explore the range of extra-curricular activities available at DCU and that they respect and embrace the diversity of the staff and student population.

Making choices

“Choosing a further- or higher-education college shouldn’t be based on one single factor,” Dr Padraig Walsh advises. “When you decide on a holiday or a restaurant, you might look at the star rating, Trip Advisor and other review sites. This isn’t as straightforward when choosing where to go after school, because students will necessarily have a mix of priorities including, for instance, whether they can travel there and what size the institution is. Quality evaluations would never be the only source, but we do hope that we can add to the quality of the institutions and how they engage with their students.”

Does the private sector offer value for money?

Don’t discount the fee-paying colleges when making your choice, but do choose carefully.

Griffith College, Dublin, has an excellent reputation. Photograph: Aidan Crawley
Griffith College, Dublin, has an excellent reputation. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

Many of the private colleges – or “independent”, as they prefer to be called – have earned their stripes and have worked hard to build up a good reputation, with the daddy of them all, Griffith College, looming large. DBS also has a good course offering. St Nicholas Montessori College is the place to train as a Montessori teacher, while Hibernia College’s teacher training courses are hugely respected.

For all this, however, a small number of independent colleges have been dogged with quality issues in a way that hasn’t beset publicly-funded organisations. Given that students can shell out up to twice the registration fee, they need to make sure they’re getting value for money.

While QQI doesn’t issue degrees in publicly-funded higher-education institutions, it is the awarding body for independent, privately-funded, fee-paying colleges. If a fee-paying college isn’t up to scratch, QQI can revoke their accreditation.

In 2010, the still-operational American College Dublin pulled a psychology course mid-stream after the Psychological Society of Ireland withdrew accreditation following serious concerns about its overall quality; the college has engaged with QQI and currently has just two of its level 8 courses accredited by the body. In 2016, QQI withdrew accreditation from four courses at the Grafton Academy of Management Sciences. And in 2017, following serious concerns about quality, QQI removed validation from all of the business programmes at private college IBAT.

Diarmuid Hegarty, president of Griffith College and a towering figure in the independent college sector, says it’s always important for any school-leaver to check whether a course at an independent college is QQI-accredited. If not, the degree may not be recognised by employers in Ireland, as it suggests they haven’t met minimum standards. If they’re accredited by another external body instead of QQI, there may be a good reason, but students should proceed with extreme caution.

Membership of the Higher Education Colleges Association ( may also be a benchmark for quality. This organisation applies minimum standards to courses run by its constituent members.

Ulster Uni


What is QQI?

If you are searching for training in Ireland you may notice the above logo appearing beside the words QQI certified or certified by QQI, but who are QQI?

“On 6 November 2012, FETAC completed its amalgamation with HETAC, NQAI and IUQB and a new integrated agency, Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI), was established. FETAC, HETAC and the NQAI are now dissolved. The new agency will continue to provide continuity of service as it evolves. QQI will bring any changes and updates to your attention over the coming weeks on its website” Source: ( )

It’s very important to note whether the course you are taking is certified by this new awarding body and to familiarize yourself with the new QQI logo.

There is also an updated National framework of Qualifications (NFQ)

NFQ_fan (630kb) NFQ_fan (2mb)




How to share files with Google drive

As we know Google drive is a great place to store your files online for easy access from any location, but what if you wanted to share the files stored in your drive? In this tutorial I will discuss two ways you can share the files stored on your Google drive.

Sharing files is a very useful feature built in to your Google drive, you might ask why? well imagine a job opportunity arises that requires immediate action. But wait! your CV is at home on your computer! not to worry there’s hope, you have a copy of your CV on your Google drive. Logging in on any computer will give you access to your Drive and to your files. You can share your files in two ways that only differ mildly.

  1. Sharing directly from your Drive: This essentially means that the file remains in your Drive and you share access to the file with the recipient. You can share with multiple recipients at once, set permissions (who can edit, who can read etc) and monitor who has downloaded the file.
  2. Attaching files from your drive to an email: In much the same way as you might attach a file from your computer to your email you can attach files from your Drive as an email attachment. (you will be given to option here to either share from your drive or send as attachment)

1. Sharing directly from your Drive

Access your drive from the Google apps symbol (small grid of black squares in the right hand corner) and click Drive. Once in your Drive, tick the little box on the left of the file you want to share (tick multiple boxes to share more than one file at a time)

Then click on the share button top middle left.

share button

once you click this you will then see the share box appear with options for sharing this file. The highlighted blue text is the address directly to the file.

share box

The middle text will show you who has access to the file already. If you click the mouse in to the box under where it says invite people you will see more options appear.

share box option arrow

You can type in the email address or addresses in to the invite people box (for multiple address separate with a comma). You can edit the permissions for the recipient/recipients with the drop down options. You can add a personal message if you want to but not necessary and you also have options to send a copy of the email to yourself or paste the actual file in to an email to send. When you are finished you can click send to send. You can go back in to this box after you have send to edit the permissions etc if needed.

NOTE* If you delete a file from your Drive it will in turn effect your share options and people you’ve shared it with will not be able to get the file after it’s gone.

2. Attaching files from your drive to an email

From the main Google page, click on the apps icon (small grid of black squares in the right hand corner). Click on Gmail icon. When in your Gmail click on compose on the left hand side at the top of the page. A little box will open in the bottom right hand corner of your page. Enter the email you wish to send the file to, the subject and your email message. At the bottom of this email window you will see a small paper clip icon (this is the attachments icon and is used to add attachments directly from your computer) If you hover over this icon you will see the Google Drive icon appear.

insert files drive

Clicking this will bring up your Drive attachment options box

drive window gmailYou have lots of attachment options here and you can go the traditional attachment route by adding it from your computer if you wish but clicking on the Drive option on the left hand side will allow you to add files from your Drive.

files screenYou then select the file or files (holding the CTRL key whilst clicking files will allow you select more than one, this works elsewhere also) then you can click insert. You might get a dialogue box saying you haven’t shared this item on your Drive but you can click add anyway and it will add your files directly to the email. You can now click send and find the nearest person to high five! You are now a Google drive sharing ninja.


Digital skills tips for job seekers.

We can often get caught up in making sure our CV’s and cover letters are looking great. We live in a digital world and employers are using the internet and internet technologies to research potential employees. This could be anything from viewing a Twitter feed for red flags, a Facebook page (if public), LinkedIn, YouTube, the list goes on. Here are a few things to consider.

Start by searching your name in Google: This is where your potential employer will probably start so pre-empting this with a couple of search combinations would be a good idea. It might be an idea to do this from another computer as you probably have pages stored in your history that will influence your searches. Search your name and see what comes up, see if you can get to your Facebook page from a search (like “your name Facebook” or “your name Dublin Facebook”) try different combinations and note the ways you got to your personal pages and what is visible on them. This will then help you to determine what is public and what is private on your social pages.

Set up an email specifically for your job seeking: You might not think it is important but the email address you send your CV from is very important. When a potential employer receives an email, try not to send it from that email address you set up when you were 16. Setting up an email specifically for your job seeking will not only gather all your job-seeking activities under one heading but will look much better and more professional.

Less of more of

If you choose Google as your email provider you will have access to 15 GB of free storage via Google drive. This can work well as a cloud storage location for all your cover letters and CV’s and give you access to them from any computer. This makes it easier should an opportunity arise that needs a speedy response.

Keep your social media pages as private as possible:  When you set up a Facebook page it’s important to remember to set your privacy settings (the default is public for new pages). A potential employer could quite easily decide to research your social media activities and the last thing you want is your new boss seeing the aftermath of that bottle of vodka you drank on Saturday night. Be as careful as possible when posting anything that might go against a company’s view or might be used as a negative against an application.

For instance: posting about a Shell oil spillage that killed 1000’s of sea birds whilst having an open job application with Topaz (Shell re-branded as Topaz in Ireland in 2008)

Research the company you are applying for: The internet is an amazing resource for research. If you apply for a job with a company, find the company on Facebook and twitter. See the kinds of things they post about and inform yourself about the company through their website. Gather as much information as possible about them so that if you do get called for interview you are prepared for the “why do you want to work for…” or “What do you know about our business…” questions.

For a list of the toughest interview questions click here

Keep up to date: Try to stay as up to date as possible with changes to existing technologies and new technologies. Be informed and maintain your digital skills because they are a great asset to you. Be aware of the free services available to you (like Google drive etc) and use them to your advantage because others are.

The verge is a great place to keep up on new technologies and news.

Forbes technology section is also good for tech news.


Good luck out there.

Keith Byrne

NCU Training


Pathways to work events

We have two events in the coming weeks that NCU will be attending and giving information out about our courses and answering any questions you might have. The events are held by Department of social protection under their pathways to work initiative , an employment, training and guidance scheme.

The first event will be on Tuesday the 27th of May in the Bracken court hotel, Balbriggan from 10:30am to 15:45pm

The second is being held on Thursday the 5th of June in the Ashbourne Community centre, Ashbourne Co. Meath from 10:00am to 4.00pm.

So if you are looking at one of our courses and are attending one of these events, we will be available to answer any questions. We look for ward to meeting you.


Get online week

Get online week is an annual digital empowerment campaign that promotes the use of digital technologies and learning digital skills. Having even basic digital skills will afford you a world of opportunity and the ability to become self sufficient in your learning. With so many great resources online, it is important to be aware of technologies that exist and how to access them.


Every nine jobs out of ten today presumes digital skills of one standard or another” – Pat Rabbitte

At NCU Training, we know the importance of Digital skills. Over the past few years we have been offering free Digital skills training so people can get online and start using technology to their advantage. We are all about digital empowerment and we have helped over 2100 people get online and start gaining Digital skills in the past two years alone.

If you are interested in taking a free Digital skills course with us you can call 01-8479463 to book a place.

Some of the course topics include:

  • Google services (Search, Email, Maps, Drive, YouTube, translate etc..)
  • Banking online
  • Government services online (motor tax, personal tax, local services etc..)

If you are interested in finding out more about Get Online Week you will find all the details on their website here

More websites worth looking at:

Grand Coalition for Digital jobs

Our free Digital skills course

Vice-President Neelie Kroes says digital literacy and e-skills are the new literacy