SOARING demand for training has left at least two people turned down for every successful applicant to restricted places on further education courses.
A survey of colleges offering post Leaving Certificate (PLC) programmes for adults shows that a dozen of the country’s biggest providers had almost 46,000 applications for just under 14,000 available places.
A Government cap of 31,500 places across the sector has been in place since last year, despite growing numbers of unemployed and low-skilled people seeking to improve their qualifications through such courses.
Similar research a year ago by the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI), which compiled the latest figures from colleges in Dublin, Cavan, Sligo, Limerick, Cork, Galway and Drogheda, showed there were two applications for every place on offer compared to three now.
Six of the colleges, at Ballyfermot, Inchicore and Rathmines in Dublin, Cavan Institute, and Cork’s Coláiste Stiofán Naofa and St John’s Central College have had to turn away around three applicants for each of the 6,500 they were able to accept.
The union said it is illogical that the Government refuses to fund additional places at a time when colleges can train people in areas where they have the potential to get work such as renewable energy, computer games design, applied social studies, science, multimedia, sport, business studies or hairdressing.
“The bulk of applicants missing out this year would previously have gone straight into employment or take up apprenticeship places. Now, there is no such option and these young people are being denied the opportunity of further progressing their education,” said TUI assistant general secretary Annette Dolan.
“The restrictions make absolutely no economic sense when the cost of extra resources necessary to take on new students would be greatly offset by savings of money otherwise payable in the form of jobseeker’s allowance,” she said.
PLC courses are mostly run by city and county VECs, mostly in dedicated further education colleges but also through vocational schools and community colleges also under VEC management.
The Department of Education said that, when other course providers are considered, more than 38,600 people enrolled in PLC courses last year and it is hoped the same can be achieved this year.
But, a spokesperson said the approved number of places is set at current levels because of the need to plan and control numbers and manage spending.
“PLC places are allocated to providers, mainly VECs, on an annual basis following an application process.
“It is a matter for VECs to allocate places to their colleges and institutions,” he said.
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