College head denies that Post-Leaving Cert courses ‘out of touch’

College head denies that Post-Leaving Cert courses ‘out of touch’
Cork College of Commerce. Helen Ryan, principal of the college, has denied that PLC courses are 'out of touch.'Picture: Denis Minihane.

RESEARCH that claims Post Leaving Cert courses (PLC) are poorly connected to the requirements of the workforce has been rejected by the principal of Cork College of Commerce.

The types of PLC courses offered have not changed over time even though there has been a dramatic shift in the kinds of jobs available in the Irish labour market, according to the ‘Evaluation of PLC Programme Provision,’ published by the ESRI on January 9.

The study, based on new surveys of PLC principals and PLC and Leaving Certificate leavers, also showed that PLC learners were 16 percent more likely to be in employment and 27 percent more likely to have progressed to higher education than those who left education after the Leaving Certificate and had similar characteristics.

Professor Seamus McGuinness, an author of the report, said that while many PLC graduates find positive results, the system is in need of development.

“The findings show positive outcomes for those who have completed PLC courses,” he said.

“At the same time, more could be done to ensure that PLC provision responds to ongoing changes in the Irish labour market.” 

One-quarter of PLC students surveyed said they acquired work-related knowledge and skills ‘never’ or ‘very little’ while on their course while just under half believed they gained such skills ‘often’ or ‘very often’.

Thirty-seven percent indicated they never or rarely gained such opportunities on their PLC programme.

While 43 percent said they frequently explored how to apply their learning in the workplace, 27 percent did not believe they had this opportunity.

Almost a third felt that their learning did not contribute to their employability and a quarter considered that they did not acquire job-related knowledge and skills.

PLC courses are still seen as a compromise as a result of not achieving sufficient grades to pursue higher education, according to the report.

“It is also important to challenge the idea that PLC courses are ‘second-best’ compared to higher education,” added Professor McGuinness.

Helen Ryan, principal of Cork College of Commerce which offers a range of PLC courses in sectors such as IT, Security Studies and Business, said she disagreed with the suggestion that many PLC providers are out of touch with industry needs.

“I completely refute the notion that we’re not staying connected,” she said.

“We make absolutely every effort to keep in touch with industry right from programme conception to development and all the way through.

“All students in the college do work placement, either one day a week or as a block placement during the year,” she added.

“We have a huge database of employers and three work placement officers here who work with them,” she added.

CCC run industry reviews of different courses every year and are members of Cork ETB and Cork Chamber, revealed Ms Ryan.

“Last year we worked with Noonan security to highlight healthcare security as a growing industry and we’ve since added that to our course,” she said.

“We also have our own jobs hub here to help our graduates get jobs and in order to do that we have to keep abreast of the latest developments from LinkedIn training, Skype Interview training and what the workplace wants so I think it’s completely wrong to be saying that we’re just producing courses and not paying attention to industry needs.”

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