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Huge variety of courses available for school leavers and adults




By Niamh Dwyer, Chairperson of the Kerry Branch of Guidance Counsellors

There are over 200 colleges of Further Education (FE) nationwide which provide approximately 70,000 places on a huge variety of courses for school leavers and adults.

This year for the first time ever a link to these courses is available on the CAO website so that applicants are made aware of the broad range of training and education options available outside of CAO courses.

In recent years about one in four Leaving Cert candidates has opted to do a Post Leaving Cert course (PLC). These courses which result in QQI FET/FETAC awards are generally one or two years in duration and are accredited at Level 5 and 6 on the National Framework of Qualifications. It is possible to use these standalone qualifications to go directly into the work place after completing the course but there is an ever-increasing number of students using them to progress onto Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) annually by applying to CAO as a QQI FET/FETAC applicant. A quota of college places each year are reserved for QQI applicants in universities and institutes of technology (HEIs) which students can apply for on a competitive basis. This allows students to progress onto and complete undergraduate degrees at Level 7 and 8.

In 2021, 13,125 applicants to CAO presented a QQI FET/FETAC qualification from Further Education colleges and centres. It is likely that many of these applicants did not secure their chosen CAO courses directly from Leaving Cert because of not having the required points or entry requirements. Taking the FE route is another chance to access places in third level and if you have completed the Leaving Cert Applied Programme (LCA) it allows you to progress into higher education which is not possible directly from LCA.

Good reasons to choose FE courses

Missing out on your chosen CAO course because of points is not the only reason to apply for FE courses. If you are a school leaver who is unsure about what you want to do, a PLC offers the opportunity to try an area of interest out and gain work experience before jumping into a three or four year degree. It also prepares you very well for progressing onto studying that subject area in more detail giving you a great foundation for further study. Second level education has been impacted hugely during the pandemic so you may feel that you are not ready for the move onto university or an institute of technology. FE colleges are similar in size to school so getting to grips with independent learning and living while developing confidence as well as key skills in communications, IT, referencing and research in that type of supportive environment makes the transition to third level easier. Figures show that the drop-out rates in higher education are lower among students who have completed a FE course first. Accommodation is also a huge problem for students so if you would like another year of living at home you will find lots of options within easy travelling distance.

Applying to colleges of Further Education

Applications are now open for autumn 2022 and entry is not based on Leaving Cert points. It is possible to apply throughout the summer, but it is advisable to apply early, as popular courses fill quickly. Begin by exploring the full list of options nationwide on You can also use the course search facility on and For the latest information on the QQI FET/FETAC links to higher education courses and entry requirements for CAO courses if you plan to progress into HEIs, check out the relevant section of

You can apply on or on individual college websites, where you will find the entry requirements for each course. To explore options locally see who are hosting an Open Week from March 22 to 24. Email for more information and to book your place.

Niamh Dwyer is a Guidance Counsellor in Scoil Phobail Sliabh Luachra, Rathmore, and Chairperson of the Kerry Branch of Guidance Counsellors. She is also a Career Consultant. For details see

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Jessie Buckley’s album shortlisted for prestigious award

Killarney superstar Jessie Buckley has been shortlisted for the 2022 Mercury Prize Album of the Year. Her collaboration with Bernard Butler ‘For All Our Days That Tear the Heart’ is […]




Killarney superstar Jessie Buckley has been shortlisted for the 2022 Mercury Prize Album of the Year.

Her collaboration with Bernard Butler ‘For All Our Days That Tear the Heart’ is one of 12 albums shortlisted for the prestigious award which will be revealed in London on September 8.

“Neither of us really knew each other and it was actually a blessing in disguise because we met each other in the moment and trusted each other, took a leap of faith and in a way come in just the way we were and not because of who we are,” she told a press conference at the awards announcement in London last week.


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Olga Tkachenko: My resilience in life is the ability to see only the good

Olga Tkachenko and I run five kilometres every Saturday with the Killarney House Parkrun. This fragile and smiling woman always runs easily and beats me every time. It seems that […]




Olga Tkachenko and I run five kilometres every Saturday with the Killarney House Parkrun.

This fragile and smiling woman always runs easily and beats me every time.

It seems that everything in her life is as easy as jogging.

But this is not quite so.

Olga grew up in Donetsk city, Donbass region. Her sister Maryna and parents lived here. A large and friendly family, they owed a holiday home in the region and would gather there for vacations and holidays. This house was a symbol of this family.

In 2014, Russian troops entered Donetsk and drove their military equipment right into the yard of the house.

From here they started shelling the Donetsk airport.

Soon the house was completely destroyed. All that remains of the house are two walls and a few pots. The family nest was devastated. Her sister Maryna tried to save the surviving property and came under fire. Fortunately, she was not injured.

Olga moved her parents to another place, and she went to Kyiv with her husband and children. All they took with them were two laptops and a few warm things. Life had to start from scratch.

Olga’s sister Maryna moved to Dnipro city, where she found a new job.

The sisters went their separate ways, but still maintained a very close relationship, calling and supporting each other every day.

Maryna’s husband and Olga’s husband are brothers and share the same last name – Tkachenko.

They have children two months apart. Olga jokes that she and her sister have a topic to talk about – their common father-in-law and mother-in-law.

Having lost their homes in 2014 due to Russia’s military aggression in Donbas, the sisters built their lives in two different cities – Irpen (near Kyiv) and Dnipro. But when the war broke out in 2022, they found themselves together again.

The sisters managed to board an evacuation train bound for Poland. Again, they only had one bag each and a one-way ticket.

“Fear drove us as far as possible. The main goal was to save the children. We did not know where we were going. We wanted to escape as far as possible from the war and the borders of Russia,” says Olga.

After staying in a refugee camp in Poland for several days, they decided to go to Ireland.
Were they worried about going into the unknown?

But Olga says that when she is together with her sister, it gives both women confidence and stability. Together, it’s not so scary anymore.

Olga says that it is impossible to get used to the fact that you lose your home every time and get used to life. It is impossible to accept that everything has to be started from new.

But she has one secret of resilience – the ability to see the good in the circumstances in which you find yourself.

Here in Killarney Olga focuses on the beautiful nature, she learns a new language, and goes jogging. She never regrets.

Olga’s sister Maryna Tkachenko has already found a job and works in as a designer in Killarney. The sisters help each other a lot and are very worried about their parents and grandmother, who remaine in Ukraine.

“Our parents spent a month under the occupation of Russian troops in a village near Kyiv. My 70-year-old mother, as in 2014, went to negotiate with Russian soldiers and persuaded them not to shoot. We are glad that our parents’ house survived this time. Because in 2014 we already lost one home. Our parents would not have survived this a second time,” adds Olga.

That is why she will soon go back to Ukraine.

She explains her motives: “I want to be where I am most needed. My eldest daughter, parents and grandmother are in Ukraine. My daughter works as a volunteer every week, clearing the rubble of buildings, so I want to help my country as well. After dismantling the ruins, we will see our beautiful country again.”


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