Careers Ireland

Students' embarking on their career journey – Is Féidir linn

  • January 2018
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CAO countdown: Advantage of Hear and Dare schemes Supports available for applicants with a disability or from disadvantaged backgrounds

Posted by Francis O' Toole on January 17, 2018


The Dare scheme has moved away from the exclusive use of medical criteria towards a holistic one. Photograph: iStockphoto

Third-level admissions schemes can play a crucial role in providing access to college for students with disabilities and those from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.

Most colleges allocate reserved places to be competed for at reduced CAO points by those who are deemed eligible.

The two main access schemes are the Disability Access Route to Education (Dare) and Higher Education Access Route (Hear), for students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Whether you secure a Hear or Dare place depends on the number of applicants to each programme. If there are four Dare places for example, and four qualifying applicants, all will secure a place on reduced CAO points.

If on the other hand there are 40 eligible applicants, the four with the most CAO points among those who do not secure a place within the mainstream CAO system secure the places.

While most colleges participate in Dare and Hear schemes – about 20 in all – not all do.

However, colleges outside of these schemes still offer a range of supports including disability support services. Whether you get a place through Dare or not, you are still entitled to avail of disability-related supports once you have a verified disability. A list of participating colleges is available on


Disadvantaged students who apply through Hear must meet a combination of financial and social indicators.

On the financial side, your total family income (gross income before tax and PRSI are deducted) for 2016 must be below €45,790 (there are higher income thresholds for families with more than four dependants).

Add €4,670 to the total income for every sibling/parent enrolled in a full-time college, university or Post-Leaving Certificate course. Applicants must also meet a combination of at least two of five other indicators, ranging from whether a student’s parents are medical card holders or welfare recipients.

Susi maintenance grants are there to assist applicants from low income backgrounds, many of whom may not necessarily meet the full Hear criteria. Applicants to Hear should also apply to Susi.


Students with disabilities who are applying to the Dare scheme need to meet two criteria relating to evidence of disability and educational impact.

The scheme has moved away from the exclusive use of medical criteria towards a holistic one which recognises the impact that having a disability can have on a student’s experience of second-level education.

The educational impact criteria involve both an applicant and school statement. This details how the applicant may have been educationally impacted because of their disability in secondary school.

For students applying on the basis of dyslexia or dyscalculia, applicants are required to submit a full psychological assessment report of any age in which their diagnosis is clearly outlined.

Applicants will also be required to submit attainment scores, either from school-based testing or from testing administered by a qualified psychologist, which have been carried out within the previous two years.

As with all other disability categories, an education impact statement must be included in the application to Dare.

Application dates

If you are interested in applying to the Dare or Hear schemes, you must apply to the CAO by February 1st and complete the online application in the “my application section” of your CAO application by March 1st. You need to post the required documentation by registered post to the CAO by April 1st.

For anyone interested in applying to Dare or Hear, advice clinics are being held nationwide on Saturday, January 20th, see for more information.

According to the Association for Higher Education Access & Disability (Ahead), approximately five per cent of students attending higher education in Ireland are registered with disability support services.

For further information about access and the supports available contact the colleges you are interested in attending.

Brian Mooney – Irish Times


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5 Things to do with the CAO

Posted by Francis O' Toole on January 17, 2018

1. Register for the CAO. If you haven’t already registered for the CAO, do so immediately. Many applicants delay this step as they feel they are not ready to complete the application.

However, no applicant will be at a disadvantage for completing this step early. Applicants can continue to work on their application until the deadline of February. The CAO offers applicants a discounted rate of €30 to register by January 20. The application form is very straightforward and allows applicants to save their work and return at any time. The most difficult part of the CAO process is deciding which courses to apply for and the order in which to place them.

2. Read over course descriptions and CAO student resources

It is likely that applicants have been reading course descriptions and attending open days since September. At this point, it is possible that all that information is starting to merge. Choosing courses is not a light-bulb moment, rather a gradual process. It is prudent to remind yourself of the details of the courses you are considering – this will help with placing them in order of preference at a later date. Applicants should also revisit the student resource section of the CAO website to ensure they have a clear understanding of the CAO process.

3. Check eligibility for HEAR, DARE and SUSI

Applicants may be familiar with these two access schemes and the SUSI grant, but all too often students who should qualify are unaware of their eligibility and don’t apply. For example, DARE stands for Disability Access Route to Education, but often students who do not identify as having a disability are covered by this scheme. Double check the criteria, especially the income thresholds for HEAR and SUSI, and indicate your intent to apply on your CAO form where appropriate.

4. Place courses in order of preference

All CAO courses should be listed in order of preference only. In my experience, applicants often have a small number of courses, which will be at the top of their preference list, but after these, things become less clear. It can be helpful to return to the order of preference list a number of times as the process of trying to order courses in itself can force applicants to drill down into the slight differences between courses and colleges. Do this early and revisit often.

5. Make an appointment with your guidance counsellor

This is a very busy time of year in schools. It is likely a large number of sixth-year students will also wish to meet the counsellor before February 1. The counsellor can help in a number of ways: suggesting extra courses based on what you have already found; discussing the pros and cons of your courses; challenging your ideas and helping clarify your order of preference list. Rushed appointments are no help to anyone, so book one early and prepare well for it.

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


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CAO countdown: Alternative career routes for school leavers

Posted by Francis O' Toole on January 11, 2018

Post-Leaving Cert courses, apprenticeships are a valuable alternative to the CAO

There has been an increase in the number of new apprenticeships offered to students across a wide range of industry sectors in recent years. Photograph: iStock

Even though most of the focus for college choice is on the CAO system, it’s important to remember there are a wide range of other career routes.

The further-education sector has opportunities for students who are gifted in specific subject areas or who may not secure the points they want through the CAO, but who may do very well in a post-Leaving Cert (PLC) course in the area they want to study.

In the past two years there has been an explosion in the number of new apprenticeships offered to students across a wide range of industry sectors, including financial services.

These “earn and learn” opportunities include paid work placements of up to €20,000 per year, combined with study in a further education college or institute of technology. These can result in academic awards ranging from higher certificates (level six) to honours degree (level eight).

Students who opt to pursue further education, provided they secure distinctions in all eight modules of a PLC programme, have a very good chance of securing a reserved place in their preferred CAO course for 2019.

In the past the links between further-education programmes and third-level were largely confined to courses offered within the institute of technology sector, but last year the university sector expanded its engagement with colleges of further education.

This trend is being driven in part by the realisation that students who excel in a particular discipline in further education are likely to progress successfully through a similar programme at third-level.

A database of such linked programmes is available on The most comprehensive source of all CAO and PLC course information is /

Practical skills

PLC programmes also offer opportunities to gain practical skills for employment in a trade or craft, such as auctioneering, hairdressing, beauty, or fire and ambulance services. For many, a practical skill acquired within the further education sector is a passport to a well-paid, secure job.

Those interested in a course offered through their local PLC colleges should visit their websites and explore their course offerings.

Places in further education courses are offered through an online application process on each institution’s website, as there is yet no central application process for the further-education sector. There may be a small application fee at that stage.

All applicants are called to interview to determine suitability. If candidates are deemed suitable, places are offered on a first-come, first-served basis in most cases, making it very difficult or impossible for new applicants to secure places later in the year.


Apprenticeships are also bouncing back, after the number collapsed during the recession.

While most of us are familiar with craft-type apprenticeships, there are many new programmes appearing.

These include apprenticeships in insurance practice, industrial electrical engineering, polymer processing technology, manufacturing technology and apprenticeships for manufacturing engineers, accounting technicians, commis chefs, and those in international financial services and ICT.

Further new apprenticeships are to be submitted for validation to Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) shortly and, subject to successful validation, are expected to get under way this year. For more information, visit

Construction is also a big growth area. There is now a dedicated website managed by the Construction Industry Federation ( for young people interested in registering their interest in a particular trade. Prospective employers can contact them directly through this site.

Apprenticeships are going to be a big growth area. There are currently about 12,000 apprentices with 4,900 participating employers and there are plans to expand those numbers dramatically by the end of the decade.

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Time to start preparing for life after the Leaving Cert

Posted by Francis O' Toole on January 9, 2018

Don’t be overwhelmed by the challenge of choosing what to do after you leave school

Consider the evidence - decide what criteria you should factor into your decision. Photograph: iStockphoto.


Life is a journey of exploration and discovery. Any adult reflecting on their own career journey since leaving school realises that expecting a young person to have decided on their occupation for life in sixth year is completely unrealistic.

Nobody, including myself at 63, knows what the next three to five years will bring. Both you as an 18-year-old and I at 63 go through the same process to determine our future career path. We both look at our life experiences, our interests and aptitudes, likes and dislikes, opportunities, what our financial and personal circumstances offer us.

The only difference between us is I have more clues buried in my life journey than you have. You will probably engage in this reflection and decision-making process at least 15-20 times between now and when you are physically incapable of meaningful career activity – which may be 70 years away, in your case.

Career choices will recur many times over your lifetime. The options at the end of second-level education are the first significant career choices you will make, but they are not life-determining.

Therefore, don’t get anxious or distressed by this decision-making process now, as you’ll face it again throughout your life. The decision about next September will simply determine what you will commit to for next year, or, with college choices, three to four years. It is perfectly normal to tell your guidance counsellor you have no idea now what to do after the Leaving Cert.

The clues to your future are buried in your past


Read the rest of this entry »

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College abroad: learning to deal with the culture shock

Posted by Francis O' Toole on January 9, 2018


For Irish students studying abroad, heavier workloads, less spoonfeeding and more independent learning can be a jolt to the system, but also a rewarding experience

Rising numbers of Irish school-leavers are opting to study abroad in countries such as France, the Netherlands and Denmark. Photograph: iStock

The fees are cheaper. College accommodation is easier to get. Entry requirements are less demanding. Their universities rank higher than in Ireland.

It’s little wonder, then, that so many Irish school-leavers are opting to study abroad.

While achieving a degree from a European university is undoubtedly a great opportunity in fostering confidence and independence, many students are in for a shock.

Workloads are typically much heavier. There’s little or no spoonfeeding of lecture notes to students. There is no culture of teaching to the test. Instead, students are required to become independent learners and solve problems for themselves.

Coming from a Leaving Cert system dominated by “teaching to the test” and rote-learning, this can come as big jolt for many Irish school-leavers.

Guy Flouch of Eunicas, a Clare-based company which facilitates the transition to European universities, says while Irish students benefit from a high standard of teaching, the learning challenge can be daunting.

“The culture of independent learning or problem-based learning can be a bit of a shock to Irish students and takes a few weeks to get used to,” he says. “As can adjusting to a new culture and lifestyle and indeed a heavier workload. Some will miss the ‘craic’ as friends who stayed at home appear – through social media – to be having a great time.

“But this will become less important as time goes by and they forge ahead and start to enjoy new ways of living and thinking.”

More than 2,200 Irish students are currently studying in colleges across Europe.

Tom Finn from Co Kildare, a second-year international business student at Maastricht University, found it difficult to adjust to college life in the Netherlands during his first few months abroad
Tom Finn from Co Kildare, a second-year international business student at Maastricht University, found it difficult to adjust to college life in the Netherlands during his first few months abroad

Tom Finn from Sallins, Co Kildare, a second-year international business student at Maastricht University in the Netherlands, is one of them. He agrees that the first few months can be very difficult.

“I didn’t really know what to expect before heading to Maastricht,” he says. “I certainly didn’t think I would be so responsible for my own learning as students here run the tutorials themselves with presentations, reports and debates, while a tutor supervises, to ensure we stay on topic.


“This is a big change from secondary school, but it does give greater independence and responsibility to us, the students, which I have come to appreciate.“Also, the workload was much bigger than I was expecting and it took some getting used to. And living away from home was tough. I still miss my family and the home cooking from time to time and I’d love to be able to bring my washing home on the weekends too. But it does get much easier after a while.”

The 19-year-old says the best way to settle into college life abroad is to make a big effort to socialise.

“Starting university is a very different experience, especially when it’s in a foreign country where most things are unfamiliar,” he says.

“I’d recommend getting out and meeting people as the first semester can be lonely if it’s your first time living away from home, so socialising and making new friends definitely helps to overcome this.

“Joining a sports team, club or association is a really easy way to meet people and helps to settle in quicker.

“Overall, studying abroad is a completely different experience and an opportunity to try something new, and I am actually really glad that I did it.”

Molly Fitzmaurice from Wexford, who graduated recently from Amsterdam University College with a liberal arts and science degree. She felt homesick initially but went on to make good friends
Molly Fitzmaurice from Wexford, who graduated recently from Amsterdam University College with a liberal arts and science degree. She felt homesick initially but went on to make good friends

Molly Fitzmaurice had a similar experience. Just graduated from Amsterdam University College with a Liberal Arts and Science degree, the 21-year-old experienced a lot of loneliness when she first arrived in the Dutch college.

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Careers News

Posted by Francis O' Toole on January 9, 2018



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Careers News

Posted by Francis O' Toole on January 8, 2018

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New release: Walking On Air

Posted by Francis O' Toole on December 13, 2017



Out on sale now

  • A page turner book about resilience
  • Short stories and poems to support positive approaches to life
  • Personal stories to support authentic  reflection on life

“All profits from proceeds of the book to go to help the Peter McVerry trust, a charity working to reduce homelessness

Purchases Walking On Air

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Posted by Francis O' Toole on December 11, 2017

The 15th January application deadline is fast approaching for UCAS.

UCAS is the centralised organisation that looks after applications to universities and third-level institutions in Britain and Northern Ireland.

When applying through UCAS, institutions will judge you based on more than just your exam results.The UCAS application involves students completing a personal statement, providing an academic reference and providing information about work experience. As well as the extra work involved in preparing an application, UCAS will send the completed application to each institution for which a student applies, for their consideration as soon as they receive it. Therefore, there is benefit to applying as early as possible.

All UCAS applications are made online through Students should first use this website to search for courses and institutions in which they may be interested. Secondly, they should contact the institution to enquire about Irish Leaving Certificate entry requirements, fees and any other requirements such as aptitude testing. Students may apply for up to five courses in a normal UCAS application.

Personal Statement

Personal statements should explain why the college should choose the applicant for the course. While including any work experience or extra-curricular activities is very important in a personal statement, applicants must also give the college an idea of their academic interests and work style.

Video: Starting your Personal Statement (UCAS)

The reference should be from someone who can comment on the student’s academic style and suitability for the course, often a subject teacher.

Visit for full details.

Thinking of Studying in the The UK? More Tips and Advice here.

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26 new national apprenticeships

Posted by Francis O' Toole on December 11, 2017


The Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton T.D., and Minister of State John Halligan T.D., announced that 26 new national apprenticeships have been approved for further development in areas ranging from Animation to Healthcare.

An Apprenticeship is a programme of structured education and training which combines and alternates learning in the workplace with learning in an education and training institution and prepares participants for a specific occupation and leads to a qualification on the National Framework of Qualifications.

If you are interested to learn more about becoming an apprentice click here.

All of the new apprenticeships are flexible, ranging in duration from two years to four years and will be offered at levels 5 to 10 on the National Framework of Qualifications.

Some 26 new apprenticeships are to be developed over the next 12-15 months. They include:

  • Applied horticulture (two years)
  • Arboriculture (two years)
  • Associate sales professional (three years)
  • CGI technical artist: animation, games, VFX (two years)
  • Equipment systems engineer (two years)
  • Farm management (four years)
  • Farm technician (two years)
  • Geo-driller (three years)
  • ICT associate professional in cybersecurity (two years)
  • Lean Sigma manager (two years)
  • Logistics associate (two years)
  • Principal engineer (four years)
  • Professional bar manager (two years)
  • Professional hairdressing (three years)
  • Professional healthcare assistant (two years)
  • Quality assurance technician (three years)
  • Quality laboratory technician (three years)
  • Senior quantity surveyor (two years)
  • Recruitment practitioner (two years)
  • Scaffolding (three years)
  • Software system designer (two years)
  • Sport turf management ( two years)
  • Stud farm management (two years)
  • Supply chain associate (three years)
  • Supply chain manager (two years)
  • Supply chain specialist (two years)

Concluding from Budget 2018, €122m will be available for apprenticeship training, an increase of almost 24% on the previous year thus allowing the delivery of 10 more apprenticeship programmes and over 6,000 more apprenticeship registrations in 2018.

Visit for apprentice opportunities and information for employers on how to register and hire an apprentice.

If you are interested in viewing the current list of apprentices available can do so by clicking here

Video: Oisin Murphy – Apprentice Carpenter


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