5 November 2021 marked an important day for Irish VET for two reasons: the Central Applications Office (CAO) launched an updated online applications portal, and, to complement this initiative, the Further Education and Training Authority of Ireland (SOLAS) introduced its smartchoices platform.

Since its foundation in 1976, the CAO has processed applications for undergraduate courses in Irish higher education (HE) institutions. Up to now, only HE options have been offered to students through this system. Following a recent refresh and modification to the online portal, when school leavers log on to the CAO website, they will be offered three choices: further education and training (FET) courses (where most VET occurs in Ireland), apprenticeship options and the original HE choices.

The Smartchoices platform

The smartchoices platform is an interactive lifelong guidance tool developed by SOLAS to enable smart choices in education and careers for all citizens, with particular focus on school-leavers and lifelong learning. It allows many different user groups (such as learners, practitioners, employers, employees, the unemployed) to access and explore information from two central dashboards. The FET dashboard allows the user to navigate via an interactive map of Ireland and drill down to explore provision by field of learning, campus location, course award, etc. Similarly, the purpose of the labour market information (LMI) and analysis dashboard is to provide available data on occupational areas, as reported in the SOLAS National Skills Bulletin. These data are based on the Irish Central Statistics Office (CSO) quarterly labour force survey. The combined dashboards and interactive tools inform and assist users in their career choices and learning pathways.

The developments address actions in the 2020 departmental paper FET progression to HE and are a significant component of Creating pathways (i.e. the seventh strategic priority area of the FET strategy 2020-24).

Read More

SOLAS National Skills Bulletin

SOLAS FET strategy 2020-24

FET progression to HE

Minister Harris announces important changes as CAO website enhanced to include further education and training options

Please cite this news item as: ReferNet Ireland; Cedefop (2022). Ireland: enhancing lifelong guidanceNational news on VET