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Cuts to PLC courses ‘make a mockery of jobless pledge’

The Government’s budget cuts to post-Leaving Certificate (PLC) courses make a mockery of commitments to tackle youth unemployment, a youth work organisation has claimed.

As the effects of increased pupil-teacher ratios on courses being taken by more than 30,000 students became clear this week, Youth Work Ireland says those courses need to be ramped up instead of cut.

"The cuts fly in the face of commitments given by the Government to support a youth employment guarantee at EU level. Our own research suggests thousands more education and training places will be required to deliver on a youth guarantee, rather than cutting what is in place at the moment," said Youth Work Ireland’s Michael McLoughlin.

The reduced staffing on PLC courses will cost hundreds of part-time specialist teachers their jobs to save €12m, but the Department of Education says they will still have the same staffing rates as those it provides for second-level schools.

Among the affected courses taking the spotlight in recent days are the music performance and production programmes at Coláiste Stiofáin Naofa in Cork.

Blarney singer-songwriter Mick Flannery, whose Red To Blue album topped the album charts this year, is a graduate from almost a decade ago. He has just returned from promotional work in Berlin before kicking off a six-show national tour in Limerick tonight.

"I met two of the people playing in the band with me, Karen O’Doherty on violin and guitarist Hugh Dillon on the course.

"It offers much more than a general music degree might, so much work is tailored to everybody’s specific needs, whether it’s performance or engineering, or the business side," Mick said.

Four of the Waterford five-piece O Emperor completed the three-year course at CSN in 2009. They are recording a second album at their own studio in Cork, with sales of their 2010 debut Hither Thither on the Universal label already having passed 10,000.

"We learned everything from plugging in a microphone to reading a contract at Stiofáin Naofa. We wouldn’t have been able to record our own albums or get through dealings with the music industry without the skills we learned from specialist teachers there," said singer and guitarist Paul Savage.

"It’s ironic that a course like this is under threat from the budget at the same time Cork is trying to become a Unesco World City of Music. Most people think music is just about entertainment, without realising it’s a living for so many people, or all the jobs that live music supports in pubs and other trades," he said.