Vocational education and training in Ireland

VET institutions

Cavan and Monaghan Education and Training Board:
- Cavan Institute – Drumalee, Cavan, Co. Cavan, Ireland - Provider of Accredited and Non-formal Vocational and Higher Education
- Monaghan Institute – Armagh Rd, Knockaconny, Co. Monaghan, Ireland – Provider of Vocational Education and Training
- Youthreach Cavan – Moynehall, Co. Cavan
- Kingscourt Youthreach – Lower Main Street, Kingscourt, Co. Cavan
- Cootehill Youthreach – Cootehill, Co. Cavan
- Monaghan Youthreach – Knockaconny, Co. Monaghan
- Castleblayney Youthreach – Lakeview Business Park, Castleblayney, Co. Monaghan
- Carrickmacross Youthreach – Holy Family Hall, Carrickmacross, Co. Monaghan

Louth and Meath Education and Training Board:
- Regional Skills and Training Centre – Coes Road, Industrial Estate, Dundalk, Co. Louth
- Youthreach Kells – Kells Youthreach, O’Growney Terrace, Kells, Co. Meath
- Youthreach Navan Foundation Centre –Youthreach Foundation, Abbey Road, Navan, Co. Meath
- Youthreach Navan Progression Centre - Youthreach Progression, Dan Shaw Road, Navan, Co. Meath
- Drogheda Institute of Further Education – Drogheda Institute of Further Education, The Twenties, Drogheda, Co. Louth
- Dunboyne College of Further Education
– Dunboyne Business Park, Dunboyne, Co. Meath:
- O’Fiach Institute of Further Education – Dublin Road, Marshes Upper, Dundalk, Co. Louth

Longford and Westmeath Education and Training Board:
- Athlone Community Training Centre – Lyster Street, Athlone, Co. Westmeath
- Longford College of Further Education – Templemicheal, Co. Longford
- Mullingar Community Training Centre – Mullingar Community Training Centre, Bishopgate Street, Mullingar, Co. Westmeath

National Training Solutions – Kells Road, Whistlemount, Navan, Co. Meath
VET guidance in Ireland is split into governmental funded and privately funded. The governmental funding route offers cost-free guidance that is available during Secondary Level schooling and any VET course, which is provided by the Irish Department of Education and Skills as an entitlement. Career and education guidance is ensured through a school plan and all students will receive a level of guidance. This also occurs in second level schools where the Transition Year Programme, the Leaving Certificate Applied or the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme all provide guidance whether in the form of advice or through work experience.

During a VET course, guidance is also provided, whether this is offered through the institute, college or university, by the National Adult Education Guidance Service, as part of a Post-Leaving Certificate course or Youthreach (a second-chance education programme offered nationally), or even through Training Centres, Adult and Community Education Programmes, Youth Centres or Prison Education Services.

The regional National Adult Education Guidance Service for Cavan and Monaghan is provided by the Cavan and Monaghan ETB. This service is open to any adult who is currently in or looking to return to education, and will provide one to one sessions with a guidance counsellor that will advise on different local and national education institutions based on their needs along with funding opportunities.

There are also websites that allow people to research what courses to apply for independently. FetchCourses.ie is one of these sites, which provides support to persons over the age of 16 who are not in education and gives details of available courses - https://www.fetchcourses.ie/courses/support
Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme Officer - Ms. Adrienne Cunningham - Cavan Institute – adriennecunningham@cavaninstitute.ie

Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme Officer – Ms. Denise McKenna – Monaghan Institute – denisemckenna@cmetb.ie

Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme Officer – Ms. Maria Ryan – Athlone Training Centre – mryan@lwetb.ie Principal – Mr. Davy McDonnell – Drogheda Institute of Further Education – info@dife.info

Training Officer - Ms. Deirdre Stewart – Louth and Meath ETB – Dstewart.rst@lmetb.ie

Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme Co-Ordinator – Ms. Martina Kavanagh – LWETB Longford Office – vtosmullingar@lwetb.ie

Training Manager – Ms. Susanne Kiernan – National Training Solutions – info@nationaltrainingsolutions.ie

Contact Centre – CMETB Youthreach Cavan – +353 49 436 1573

Director of Further Education – Ms. Sadie Ward McDermott – Youthreach Louth & Meath – smcdermott@lmetb.ie
The VET system in Ireland is coordinated by 16 regional Education and Training Boards (ETB) across Ireland, that are responsible for Post Leaving Certificate courses, Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme, Youthreach courses, Apprenticeship and Traineeship programmes. ETB’s focus on particular regions in Ireland, for instance Cork ETB covers the county Cork, while Cavan and Monaghan ETB covers both county Cavan and county Monaghan. Ireland’s ETBs provide a unified response to VET with them catering to around 90% of the VET programmes in Ireland. While SOLAS works in conjunction with ETBs to provide a strategic direction to the Further Education and Training Sector in a supervisory capacity.

The Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme (VTOS) is for persons over the age of 21 that are unemployed and are in receipt of social welfare supports. VTOS is managed and delivered through local Education and Training Boards (ETB).

In Ireland, Vocational Education and Training is termed Further Education and Training (FET). FET courses are coordinated by the 16 ETBs and provided through community-based and regional training centres. FET provision in Ireland focuses on providing specialised courses to promote employability and to develop work readiness skills among young and adult learners. These courses are split into two categories: The Traineeship Programme and the Specific Skills Training. Traineeship Programmes provide training and work-experience to trainees with a minimum of 30% of the programme completed through work-based learning. This programme helps participants to gain the skills and experience needed to enter a particular job by providing them with a recognised Qualification. Specific Skills Training focuses more on those individuals who have either lost or changed their jobs and need support to develop specific digital skills for job retention.

SOLAS is the national body that is responsible for the supervision of Further Education and Training in Ireland, and in ensuring the National FET Strategy is implemented nationally. SOLAS also is responsible for the National Skills data base where they provide research and figures on the nation’s skills and training. They also function as a coordinator of VET programmes and a funding director of ETBs and other VET providers. SOLAS also functions as a VET provider, with their programmes including Apprenticeships, Traineeships, ‘Skills to Advance’, eCollege and the European Globalisation Fund.

Apprenticeships organised by SOLAS are a unique opportunity for persons to engage in a split between on-site experience and institutional education. Apprenticeships usually come as a form of employment, where the participant learns as they work through supervision. Apprenticeships can last for about 4 years, where the participant will switch between training in an ETB, training centre or Institute of Technology, and between hands-on experience in a workplace environment. Anyone over the age of 16 can apply for an apprenticeship as long as they have passed a Junior Certificate or equivalent or by engaging in a preparatory training course or by having 3 years relevant work experience. Those who are interested in engaging in an apprenticeship can apply through the Apprenticeship Section of a local ETB or applying directly to the industry lead of a relevant apprenticeship area.

INTREO provides a streamlined employment support service in Ireland. INTREO are funded through the Department of Social Protection, and primarily they provide access to information and supports to help jobseekers and NEETs to re-engaged in employment or further education. Jobseekers and NEETs can attend regional INTREO offices for advice and job coaching, or for advice on how to access employment supports. INTREO also provide advice and guidance to employers, and so they are a key intermediary working in this field.


Eucational options

Education in Ireland begins formally with primary education. Primary education in Ireland takes 8 years to complete, and children tend to begin their education between the ages of 4 and 6. By the age of 6, all children must legally have begun their formal education. Secondary school in Ireland takes up to 6 years to complete. The first 3 years comprise the Junior Cycle, where students complete a Junior Certificate state examination after the third year. Following this exam, students have several options. They can complete a ‘transition year’, which is an optional additional school year, where students do not follow a formal curriculum. Following this, students then progress to Senior Cycle secondary education where they study for an additional 2 years and complete the Leaving Certificate state examination. This exam is required for direct entry to tertiary education. Apart from the mainstream Leaving Certificate cycle, students can also undertake a Leaving Certificate Applied Programme or the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme. Both Programmes provide alternative pathways for students who wish to complete the state examination but prefer learning with a vocational focus. Another option is for students to exit the formal education structure after they complete the Junior Cycle. If chosen, students can then decide to complete an apprenticeship, traineeship or to enter employment directly. Third level education can have several forms such as university, technological universities, institutes of technology or colleges of education. However, some may choose to opt for Further Education and Training, which could be through vocational or apprenticeship programmes. Universities, technological universities, institutes of technology and colleges of education are all considered mainstream channels of education. There are other organisations and schemes that offer specialised training.

One example of these organisations is Youthreach, which provides targeted second-chance education opportunities to young persons, under the age of 25, who have left formal education early. Youthreach provides programmes to support young people to develop their life skills, while also covering the curricula of both the Junior Cycle and Senior Cycle of secondary education. In this way, Youthreach provides pathways to early-school-leavers to re-engage with formal education structures by completing the state examinations. Youthreach programmes are accredited at levels 3 and 4 of the European Qualifications Framework.
There are essentially two main roads into VET which people get to choose at two very different stages. The first road into VET is for early school leavers, where a person may have left formal education before gaining any qualifications, they would be able to avail of the services of their local Youthreach. Youthreach Centres provide them with the qualifications they need to progress onto further education such as VTOS, FET or apprenticeships. To be eligible for Youthreach a person must be between 15 and 20 years of age, unemployed and an early school leaver without vocational training. The training that is offered depends on the Youthreach centre, as different courses are provided depending on the facilities available. These can be one to two-year courses that are made up of different modules such as communications, mathematics, english, woodcraft, work experience and others. These courses can also specialise for certain jobs, giving the students a better chance to gain a place on an apprenticeship programme or to enter the jobs market directly.

The second road into VET comes from persons who have completed their Junior Certificate or Leaving Certificate, but who may not wish to attend tertiary level education. Educational institutes like Cavan Institute offer the opportunity for continued education or vocational education and training through a Post-Leaving Certificate (PLC) course. This provides potential students with training and experience that helps their chances of employment upon graduating with a PLC.

In Ireland, VET is available to any person who is over the age of 16, and different educational requirements are set depending on the course. Some may ask that a participant has passed their Junior Certificate or Leaving Certificate state examinations, while others may look for certain grades. VET offers courses in areas such as apprenticeships, traineeships, Post Leaving Certificate courses and community and adult education programmes.

VTOS however is only available for persons over the age of 21 who have been receiving social welfare supports for over 6 months. While FET is available to any person with some degree of formal education, VTOS is more aimed towards early school leavers. VTOS offers a pathway to gaining Junior and Leaving Certificate qualifications and can progress into awards at Levels 3, 4 and 5 on the European Qualifications Framework.


Possible VET careers and how to get there

VET in Ireland typically prepares graduates to enter the jobs market in a number of different sectors, including Science and Engineering, ICT, Business, Healthcare, Construction, Hospitality, Transport and Logistics, Sales and Marketing, etc. Apprenticeships can see employment in a number of roles, including carpenters to electricians to heavy vehicle mechanics.
Ireland’s Labour Market has changed drastically over the past 2 decades, and it has been largely impacted by the economic crisis of 2008. However, with COVID-19 this has changed even further. Some employment sectors, such as marketing, have only increased with COVID-19; however others have seen the opposite effect. In recent years however, there has been a number of skill shortages in Ireland in roles in the pharmaceutical and IT sectors.

Specific skills shortages are noticed in the following job roles: chemists, biochemists, engineers, technicians, software developers, data analysts, nurses, chefs, welders, transport drivers and others. These roles are specifically targeted by VET and VTOS training programmes, with the aim of upskilling individuals considering a career change, jobseekers, NEETs and early-school-leavers, so that they can gain the specific skills required to meet this demand in the labour market.
INTREO is the primary provider of support, guidance and information for jobseekers in Ireland. Jobseekers in Ireland can utilise INTREO for employment services such as advice, training and personal development; while career advisors in INTREO also work with jobseekers to tailor job searches to an individual’s experience, skills and interests. They also provide access to income supports while job-seeking. INTREO manage and update the online portal JobsIreland.ie, where employment opportunities are posted. They also provide a specialised employment scheme for youth called Youth Employment Support Scheme or (YESS). It is focused on those aged between 18 and 25 that have been unemployed for at least 12 months and are in receipt of a form of social welfare support.

In addition, there are career fairs provided through the ETBs, and hosted in community centres. These fairs give students of VET, VTOS or Youthreach the opportunity to engage with employers.

There is also the option of completing job searches online, independently, by matching one’s experience and skills gained through VET with positions available. A number of sites exist to support independent job searches. Some examples include: JobsIreland.ie, jobs.ie, and ie.indeed.com.