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Going to college: There are opportunities outside the CAO

Posted by Francis O' Toole on March 9, 2016

Not every Leaving Certificate student plans to move to third level education. In recent years, there were few opportunities for school-leavers beyond the CAO and the Post-Leaving Cert (PLC) system, but now there is a focus on re-introducing options such as apprenticeships and traineeships, and in a range of new sectors, including financial services.

The majority of such opportunities are advertised in spring, so it is essential that interested students keep a close eye on websites at this time. Here are some open to applications now.

Eir apprenticeships

Apprentices will learn to maintain and repair equipment throughout the Eir network. The two-year programme will involve on-the-job training as well as classroom-based learning and successful applicants will receive a Level 6 QQI Telecommunications Access Networks Technology Major Award. Eir welcomes applications from school-leavers and successful trainees may be offered a permanent role in the organisation. Applicants must hold a Leaving Cert with a minimum of six passes, including maths, by September 2016, and a driver’s licence on or before April 2016.

Bus Eireann Heavy Vehicle apprenticeships

Bus Eireann is currently recruiting applicants for heavy vehicle mechanics apprenticeships in Dublin, Cork, Waterford, Ballina, Limerick, Thurles, Tralee, Galway, Athlone and Longford. . Minimum entry requirements include Junior Certificate ordinary level C in English or Irish, Maths, a science subject and two other subjects. Leaving Cert minimum entry requirements are also available. Applicants must be 16 by August 1 2016. Interested candidates can apply through and applications close on April 10.


Teagasc offers courses to school-leavers and mature students in the area of horticulture, equine, agriculture, food and forestry, at a variety of different levels, from Level 5. They are held all over the country in agricultural colleges as well as other centres. Many qualified graduates to take advantage of the stamp duty exemption for young trained farmers. There is more information on Admission is based on an entrance exam, which is normally held in May. Some open days take place this week.

Other opportunities

Other institutions and organisations may recruit from time to time. In recent years, Nissan and the ESB have recruited apprentices and the Air Corps has recruited aircraft technicians. The military has also recruited apprentices and cadets. To keep abreast of such opportunities it would be helpful to monitor the website of such organisations

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

Question: I am applying for college as a mature student and I am stuck having to choose between two courses.

Answer: Consider both options carefully. Courses on the CAO application should be listed order of preference. The CAO will presume that the course placed as your first preference is the course you want the most. They will consider that the course you place as your second preference is the next best option for you if you do not receive an offer for your first preference.

Each applicant will receive only one offer for each list (Level 8 and Level 7/6) in Round 1. Once an offer is made, each course listed below will effectively disappear, from your application. The CAO will offer you a place on a higher-preference course if a place becomes available in future rounds, but will never offer you a place on a course you have listed in a lower-preference slot. There is a helpful video explaining this in the student resource section of the CAO website.


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