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Frequently Asked Questions

Have a question that is not answered here? You can dowload the One Step Up information booklet for free here, email us by clicking here or call our Freephone Helpline on 1800 303 669.

Click on the plus symbol (+) to see the answer to each question.

If you would like to work, while also getting a qualification,
an apprenticeship may be a good option.

An apprenticeship is a training and education programme. It mixes learning in a college or training institution with work-based learning in a company. At least half of apprenticeship learning is done on the job.

As an apprentice, you earn while you learn. You have a formal employment contract, and you're paid a salary during your apprenticeship training.

Apprenticeships can last between two and four years. There are 56 different types of apprenticeships available, in 13 different industries.

Apprenticeships also lead to internationally recognised qualifications. These can be from level 6 to level 10 on the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ).

There are a variety of apprenticeships on offer from traditional crafts (Carpentry, Electrical, Toolmaking, and Motor) to new apprenticeships in
Insurance Practice and Industrial Electrical Engineering. The new apprenticeships are very flexible and range from two to four years. Traditionally, an apprenticeship received a NFQ level 6 award but newer apprenticeships are offered from levels 5 to 9 on the NFQ.

An apprenticeship is the recognised way people are trained in a craft trade or profession. The main craft trades and professions have been designated by SOLAS and come within the scope of the Statutory Apprenticeship system, which is organised by SOLAS in co-operation with the Department of Further and Higher, Research, Innovation and Science, employers and unions. An Apprenticeship Council is also in place.

An apprenticeship provides on-the-job training with an employer. It usually alternates between off-the-job training in an education centre and on-the-job training at your employer's workplace. An apprenticeship generally lasts for 2 to 4 years, during which time you will spend different periods in off-the-job training.

What do I need to become an apprentice?
Depending on the apprenticeship there will be different entry

• At least Junior Certificate (or equivalent) but many require Leaving Certificate (or equivalent)

• For some craft apprenticeships you will be required to pass a colour vision test

• A pre-apprenticeship course or at least three years relevant work experience approved by SOLAS, may also be considered

• You must be employed in your chosen occupation with an approved employer. A bursary is available to employers who recruit females into designated apprenticeships

How do I apply?
Search for an apprentice position on or contact the apprenticeship section in your local Education and Training Board.

Visit for contact details.

Generation Apprenticeship

Useful resources:

  • WITNI is an independent grassroots initiative that celebrates working Irish tradeswomen and those seeking careers in the skilled trades. Visit

  • For more information on apprenticeships contact the apprenticeship section in your local Education and Training Board. For contact details of your local ETB see Contact.

  • You can explore the various apprenticeships currently available using our CareerExplorer, where you can view details on all apprenticeships, and even check out those that are in development and expected to be available soon. Details such as the course content, training involved, and links to where the vacancies are advertised are all contained in each of the 50+ Apprenticeship profiles available. To view all Apprenticeship options: Click Here


More information

More women in apprenticeships than ever before

With a 114% increase in women in apprenticeship in the last 2 years, and numbers growing year on year, women are becoming a big part of the 21st Century Apprenticeship story. To view success stories Click Here

Additional gender diversity bursary

An additional bursary of €2,666 will be extended to employers who currently have 80% apprentices of one gender to encourage greater diversity in trades.

On the flip side, more than 80% of hairdressing apprentices are women, so the same incentive would apply to boost the number of men entering this profession.

A €5,000 bursary programme to help 100 apprentices each year from disadvantaged backgrounds, as well as lone parents, people with disabilities, Travellers, and Roma, will also be rolled out.

To find out more get in touch with your local Adult Education Guidance and Information Service

If you lost your job because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) is the main income support offered to you.

This payment can open opportunities for employment and training supports, which can help you to find a job and gain valuable skills. To get these supports you may have to apply for a different social welfare payment, such as jobseekers, or you may be able to remain on the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment depending on the type of support you need.

More information on how you can get these supports is available below:



The Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed (INOU) provides a free and confidential information service to answer any of your questions about the full range of Social Welfare payments. Click Here to find out more. 

The Government of Ireland, through the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science may provide forms of financial supports to eligible adults returning to education via a number of programmes.  These include:

For more information about how these affect social welfare payments and your eligibility to apply for these supports click Here and contact your free and confidential local Adult Education Guidance and Information Service. You should also make sure to tell your Intreo Centre that you are undertaking a course to see what other supports might be available to you.

For more information about Social protection and other supports to return to education click Here.

Places of Sanctuary Ireland is a network of groups in towns, cities and local communities which share the objectives of promoting a culture of welcome, and inclusiveness right across every sphere and sector of society, including education, so that wherever newcomers to Ireland such as refugees seeking sanctuary go they will feel safe, find people who welcome them and have opportunities to be included in all kinds of activities. 

Education in all its forms can provide a vital space for intercultural interaction, helping ensure that social integration and inculsion in local communites can flourish to make Ireland a more enriched, diverse and prosperous society.  

If you or someone you know would like to find out more about accessing education (from primary schools, Further Education and Training to universites) then Click Here and see what opportunites are available nearby. 

Local Groups across the island of Ireland

For more information about becoming a teacher Click Here to visit the Department of Education's website.  


You can also visit the Teaching Council website too: 

In Ireland, initial teacher education programmes for primary and post-primary teachers are facilitated through a range of concurrent (undergraduate) and consecutive (postgraduate) programmes. Minimum entry requirements for programmes of initial teacher education are set by the Minister for Education and Skills, in consultation with the Teaching Council. 

All initial teacher education programmes (primary, post-primary and further education) in Ireland that lead to registration must have professional accreditation from the Teaching Council. The first cycle of review and accreditation has now been completed for all programmes, and reports have been issued to the HEIs.

Click Here to find out about all the various 'Levels' of the the National Qualifications Framework



Due to COVID-19 and the ongoing public health measures, the Leaving Certificate in 2021 may be affected. For more information go to the State Examination Commission website Here 

For personalised, one-to-one, free and confidential information, support and guidance on the Leaving Certificate 2021 you can contact  your nearest Adult Education Guidance and Information Services delivered by your local Education and Training Boards 


To see the Exam Timetable for Leaving Certificate 2021 Click Here 

For the Applied Leaving Certificate 2021 Timetable Click Here

For more support with improving your writing, maths, reading skills or managing technology like the internet on your mobile phone, tablet or laptop you can contact the National Adult Literecy Agency (NALA): 

1 800 20 20 65 


text LEARN to 50050

Click on the video below for more information


The Irish Refugee Council's Education Fund assists people in the asylum process with their educational needs including course fees, transportation costs and course materials. The fund is usually open for applications in July with grants offered in August for courses running from September to the following May.

See also the Irish Refugee Council's EDUCATION IN IRELAND: A guide for people seeking asylum, those with refugee status, subsidiary protection or permission to remain.

For more information please click Here, call 01 764 5854 or Email 

For all your questions related to COVID-19, please visit the Citizen's Information webpage or click on the letters below.  


For an overview of COVID-19 please click Here


To find out more about Level 5 restirctions Click Here

COVID infologo 

There are training courses available under 2 different types of training.


The Traineeship Programme provides training and relevant work experience. If you are unemployed and looking for an opportunity to gain training, experience and a formal qualification in a particular area of work, the Traineeship Programme may suit your needs. Traineeships are full-time. The duration of the programme will depend on the area in which you choose to train. When your initial training is completed, you move back and forth between the centre and the employer's workplace, further developing your skills and gaining practical experience. When you complete your course you will receive a Qualification and Quality Ireland (QQI) award at either Certificate or Advanced Certificate level.

The range of traineeships available is likely to change so you need to keep in touch with your local employment services office or Intreo centre for up-to-date information.

Specific Skills Training allows people who have lost their job or who are changing job to learn new job-related skills. There are short and long day coursesonline courses, blended learning and evening courses.The courses on offer vary from centre to centre and from year to year with different levels of certification. The courses are run during the day and in the evenings. Priority on daytime courses is given to unemployed people. A day course is free to all unemployed people, even if you are not getting a social welfare payment. An evening course is not free unless you are getting a social welfare payment.


Further Education and Training (FET) training allowances

A FET training allowance may be paid if you take part in the Traineeship Programme or Specific Skills Training.

Apart from evening courses, all FET training courses are free and you may be paid a FET training allowance for the duration of your course. You can also claim a meal allowance, an accommodation allowance if you need to live away from home for the duration of the course or a travel allowance if you live 5 km or more from the course centre. You may also qualify for free childcare.

You can read more details in our document on FET training allowances.

How to apply

To apply for a place on a FET training course, you should register with your local employment services office or Intreo centre. You will be interviewed to identify the course that will best suit your needs. Due to the pressure on some courses, you may not get a place immediately on the course of your choice. For more information about available training courses contact your ETB Training Centre.

The Back to Education Allowance (BTEA)

The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection administers the Back to Education Allowance. This financial support is for those hoping to do an approved full-time education course. The course must lead to a higher qualification on the National Framework Qualifications (NFQ) other than that already held. 

There are two options available:

  • Second level option
  • Third level option

Second Level Option (SLO)

You can attend a second level course of education at any community, comprehensive, secondary or vocational school. 

The course must be full-time and lead to a certificate recognised by the Department of Education and Skills or approved by QQI (formerly FETAC), e.g. Junior Cert., Leaving Cert., Post Leaving Cert or foundation/access courses at Universities or Institutes of Technology or a City and Guilds Certificate.

Third Level Option (TLO)

You can attend a third level course of education at any university, third level college or institution, provided that the course is a full-time day course of study and is approved.

A single Student Grant Scheme replaced the 4 main support schemes for students. Student grants are divided into maintenance grants, fee grants and the postgraduate contribution. A maintenance grant is a contribution towards the student’s living costs. A fee grant can cover all or part of a student’s tuition fees (unless covered by the Free Fees Scheme).

There is detailed information on the range of grants and funds for students in further and higher education on the website

Payment on the Back To Education Allowance (BTEA)

The Back to Education Allowance will only be paid for the 9-month academic year for those in receipt of Jobseekers payments. It is NOT payable for the 3- month summer period between academic years. BTEA participants who are unable to find employment during the summer period may be entitled to claim a jobseeker payment. They will be required to satisfy the normal qualifying conditions.

Other Payments

People getting a Back to Education Allowance cannot work full-time and are not eligible for Community Employment, Social Economy Programme, Tús, Rural Social Scheme, any other FET or Fáilte Ireland training programmes, Part-time Job Incentive Scheme or any other employment or training scheme or programme operated by the National Learning Network.

People getting a Back to Education Allowance are not eligible for Working Family Payment (WFP).

Who is eligible for the Back To Education Allowance (BTEA)?

You will be eligible for the Back to Education Allowance if you are:

  • Aged 21 or over and in receipt of one of the qualifying payments, or
  • Aged 18 or over and in receipt of a (specified) disability payment, or
  • Aged between 18 and 21 years of age and out of formal education for at least two years,


  • Awarded Statutory Redundancy payment and are entitled to one of the qualifying Social Welfare payments

Assessment of income from part-time employment

Since the 2016/2017 academic year, people getting BTEA who take up work during the academic year will be assessed under the rules (including means assessment) that apply to their primary payment - the payment they qualified for BTEA from. This only applies to new applicants or people who return to BTEA after a break.


The COVID Pandemic Unemployment Payment (CPUP)

The Government announced under the July Jobs Stimulus that access to the Back To Education Allowance will be extended to people in receipt of CPUP. This means that time spent on CPUP will be considered as part of the qualifying period towards the BTEA.


to see what the qualifying conditions are visit

There are lots of ways to continue your education, further your training and acquire new skills.

If you are leaving school, unemployed or looking for your first job, or if you are looking to change direction in your career, you can choose from a large number of education and training programmes funded by SOLAS, the Education and Training Boards (ETBs), and various government departments and agencies. These offer a wide range of full-time and part-time options so you can choose the one that best suits your circumstances.

Eligibility conditions and training allowances vary widely from course to course, so you should check the details of each course carefully.

In addition to the options listed below, you may also be able to access education and training if you are involved in a youth group, a community group or some other form of voluntary activity. Ask the co-ordinator of the group in which you are active for information regarding education and training opportunities within that organisation.

Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme (VTOS): provides an opportunity to return to full-time education if you are an unemployed adult or getting certain social welfare payments. Courses are designed to meet the education and training needs of unemployed people and are particularly suitable if you have been out of school for some time.

Back to Education Programme: provides an opportunity to return to part-time or full-time education while continuing to get income supports such as the Back to Education Allowance or keep your social welfare payment. You must be getting a social welfare payment and meet certain other criteria.

Post Leaving Certificate (PLC) courses: PLC courses are open to school-leavers and adult participants, offering a mixture of practical work, academic work and work experience.

Further Education and Training (FET) courses: provide an opportunity to develop or upgrade your skills in the commercial and industrial sectors if you are unemployed or redundant. Most courses are free and you may get a Further Education and Training (FET) training allowance depending on your circumstances. If you are on a full-time course and you need childcare, you may qualify for a free childcare place under the Childcare Employment and Training Support (CETS) scheme.

Work placement programme: offers work experience and you may be able to keep your social welfare payment.

Springboard: provides free higher education places for unemployed people. You can keep your social welfare payment for as long are you are entitled to it while you are participating on a Springboard course.

Skills for Work: provides training and educational opportunities for those in part-time or full-time employment. It helps you to improve the basic skills you need in the workplace such as literacy, numeracy and IT skills. Skills for Work is delivered by the Educational and Training Boards.

Skillnet Ireland: enables groups of private sector companies to set up training networks to deliver a range of accredited and/or industry-recognised programmes. Skillnet Ireland offers some training to unemployed people. If you are unemployed you will not pay for this training.

Under the ReBound initiative, Skillsnet Ireland provides mentoring and support to small and medium enterprises implementing the ‘Return to Work Safely’ Protocol during the COVID-19 public health emergency.

Youthreach: If you are between 15 and 20 years of age and have left school without any formal qualifications, the Youthreach programme will provide you with opportunities for basic education, personal development, vocational training and work experience.

FIT (Fastrack to IT)provides targeted information technology training for people who are getting certain social welfare payments or signing for credits. Courses include office administration, web design and programming, broadband communications and PC maintenance.

Skills training with State agencies: Some State agencies offer a range of specialist courses in their particular commercial or industrial sectors. Some of these training courses are at third level and require you to have formal qualifications and to apply through the Central Applications Office as you would for any other third-level course.

To find out more and to get some advice, information and guidance please click Here

Based on information from the Department of Education that can be found HERE, a number of key decisions were made about the 2020 Leaving Certificate. 


Key decisions

The decision was made to postpone Leaving Certificate 2020 and to offer students a system of Calculated Grades.

Calculated grades were offered to students completing Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) or Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP) in 2020. The calculated grades process applied to the Link Modules of the LCVP. LCA students were provided with calculated grades for subjects, tasks and vocational specialisms due to be completed in 2020.

You can read the full guide to calculated grades for Leaving Certificate students 2020 here.

Further advice and information on how these decisions were taken is available at:

For more information Click Here and for contact details for the State Examinations Commission Click Here.

For more up to date information, one-to-one support and professional guidance counselling from your local free, confidential, impartial Adult Education Guidance Service in relation to finding your learning pathway please Click Here  

Every year thousands of adults across Ireland return to education, many of them succesfully apply to do third level courses in universities and colleges. Third level education is becoming increasingly accessible to adults on both a full-time and a part-time basis.

Many colleges and universities hold information events for people who want to study as mature students. One Step Up has a calendar of events that run throughout the year.

Third-level colleges reserve a small number of places specifically for learners known as 'mature students' who want to participate in full-time day programmes. If you are over 23 you can apply for one of these places. This means that you will compete for your place on a different basis to those who are just leaving school. The number of places reserved for mature students are limited, however, so it is likely that you will still have to compete with your peers. Generally, you are considered to be a mature student if you are at least 23 years of age on January 1 of the year you enter your course. If you are interested in a particular college you should check how it defines a mature student.

If you opt for a full-time course in this way, you will be expected to attend classes or lectures every day and you will be assessed in the same way as the other students on your course. However, if the full-time model does not suit you, there are other options available, including part-time courses, modular programmes and distance learning.

If you choose to study on a part-time or modular basis, you can spread your studies over a number of years. This gives you the opportunity to organise your time and to study in bursts when it is most convenient for you. It has the obvious drawback that it will take longer to complete than a full-time course, but it also has the advantage that it allows you to work at your own pace, gradually building credits towards your qualification.

University access programmes

University access programmes aim to increase the participation of under-represented groups at third-level. They do this by supporting young adults and mature students to study at third-level colleges. Students attending access or foundation courses that are on the Department of Education’s approved list of post-leaving certificate courses may be eligible for funding under the Student Grant Scheme. However, students attending a foundation or access course in any other college or university will not be eligible for funding. An access or foundation course is considered to be a second-level course for the Back to Education Allowance. You should check your options around access programmes with the university of your choice or local Education and Training Board.


How to apply

In order to apply for a third-level course as a mature student, you should first contact the college of your choice directly and send them an up-to-date curriculum vitae (CV). Some colleges require you to apply through the Central Applications Office and you must apply before 1 February of the year you start your course. You will be in competition with other mature students for a place on the course so make sure to include as much detail as possible regarding your educational background, work experience and other interests. If your CV gets through the first part of the application procedure, you will be called for interview. At this point, you may be asked to bring along work that shows your aptitude for the course in question or you may be required to sit an aptitude test.

Mature applicants are advised to supply evidence of any qualifications that they mention in their online application. For more information please read pages 7 & 8 of the CAO Handbook. You will also find more information in the Mature Applicant section of the CAO website here. If you have questions about the personal statement or referees you can contact the Mature Student Officer or the Admissions Officer of the HEIs that you are applying to for more information.

You can find detailed information about college requirements and supports for mature students in the Mature Student Directory of Irish Third-Level Institutions (pdf).


To apply you can contact the Central Applications Office

Tower House
Eglinton Street

Opening Hours: Office Hours 9:30-17:00

Tel: (091) 509 800




eCollege is a SOLAS-funded online training facility that provides a range of high quality interactive online learning courses, available any time through broadband Internet access, for those who wish to learn at their own pace. 

eCollege courses are temporarily being made available free of charge as an additional support to those impacted by Covid-19 containment measures.

Why Choose eCollege?

eCollege is a leading learning platform that delivers online training courses in business, project management, information technology, graphic design, web design, digital marketing, software development and basic computer literacy.

To find out more Click Here

The Open University in Ireland


The UK's Open University (OU) in Ireland is home to more OU students than any other country, outside of Britain. So, whether you want to develop your career to a senior level, research a subject or become a specialist in your field, The Open University offers a wide range of world-class programmes that are taught in English and can fit around your other commitments.

Local support

  • 10 study centres nationwide
  • Over 5,000 students and 250 qualifications
  • 279 tutors across Ireland
  • Qualifications aligned to the National Framework of Qualifications in Ireland
  • Local advisers at our centre in Dublin on hand to help

Qualifications range from certificates, diplomas and short courses to undergraduate and postgraduate degrees: View courses

Access courses

Whether you’re new or returning to education, Open University Access Courses are designed to build confidence and equip you with all the study skills you’ll need to progress successfully.

Find out more about our Access courses

For those with little or no experience of third level education the ‘Can I do it?’ section on the Open University website addresses questions around what is required to study and what supports are available:

The free module ‘Am I ready for distance learning?’ is also very useful for prospective students to complete:

Whether you want to develop your career to a senior level, research a subject or become a specialist in your field, The Open University offers a wide range of world-class programmes that are taught in English and can fit around your other commitments. The Open University does not ask for entry requirements for the majority of its degree programmes which can greatly benefit those with little or no experience of formal education.


The Open University in Ireland has an office in Dublin:

Holbrook House
Holles Street
off Merrion Square North
Dublin 2
D02 EY84

Telephone: +353 1 678 53 99

For more up to date information, one-to-one support and professional guidance counselling about what your options are in relation to the Leaving Certificate from your free, confidential, impartial and nearest Adult Education Guidance Service please Click Here  


Leaving Certificate 10.3.2020.JPG


  • Education and Training Boards (ETBs) are the main providers of education and training and offer Leaving Certificate courses in a number of ETB colleges. There are also a number of private colleges offering Leaving Certificate courses. You can search for courses on the online database of Further Education and Training Courses
  • Enrolment takes place from the beginning of August to mid-September each year, depending on the college. The cost of doing the Leaving Certificate varies. ETB colleges are the less expensive option, however check with your local ETB to see what exact costs are involved. If you choose a private college the cost is considerably higher.
  • You should contact your local Adult Education Guidance Service based in the ETB if you are thinking of doing your Leaving Certificate. To find contacts for your local Adult Guidance Service click here


Finding A Course
To search for Leaving Certificate courses visit:

For advice on Leaving Certificate options contact the Adult Education Guidance and Information Service based in your
local ETB; for more Click Here

VTOS and BTEI Programmes often offer Leaving Certificate courses for those in receipt of social welfare payments.

AHEAD is an independent non-profit organisation working to creative inclusive environments in education and employment for people with disabilities. The main focus of their work is further education and training, higher education and graduate employment.

AHEAD provides information to students and graduates with disabilities, teachers, guidance counsellors and parents on disability issues in education. Below are some useful links that can be found at

You can contact AHEAD with your query by Clicking Here


The National Learning Network (NLN) provides a range of flexible training courses for people who have experienced a setback, have had an accident, a mental health issue, an illness, injury or have a disability and extra support needs. work with people who experience health conditions, illness, disability, mental health difficulty, trauma, addiction, economic isolation or challenging life circumstances. We support people to make successful transitions, whatever their stage in life. We can help with transition from school to the adult environment, with access to vocational training, support with getting a job, recovery and wellness, improving people’s health, enhancing quality of life and achieving successful inclusion in the community. 

Education tailored to meet your needs

National Learning Network has a wide range of training and further education training programmes that can open the door to exciting new careers and employment opportunities for you. From business and computer skills, through to graphic design, art and leisure studies, National Learning Network has the course where you can achieve your full potential. Our courses offer a variety of awards including QQI (Level 1-6), ECDL, MOS and City & Guilds. National Learning Network facilitates students to recognise previous learning in order to gain a credit towards a full award.

To find a course or get more information please Click Here


Back to Education Initiative (BTEI)

The BTEI provides part-time courses, aimed at those who have not completed their Leaving Certificate. It gives individuals the opportunity to combine a return to learning with family, work and other responsibilities. Anyone who has left full-time education can take part in a course, but priority will be given to those with less than upper second level education. 

You can also take part in BTEI if you are working and on a low income. The aim is to give people an opportunity to combine their learning with family, work and other commitments.

The participants eligible for free tuition are people who (or their dependants):

All other participants are charged a fee. For information about fees, you should contact your local Education and Training Board.

Further Education Colleges also offer full-time and part-time Leaving Certificate options.

If you are looking for a specific Leaving Certificate subject check with the Adult Education Guidance and Information Service based in your local ETB, to find out if the subject(s) you require are offered. If not, they advise you further.

A number of private colleges offer the Leaving Certificate programme and you may consider applying as an external applicant. For more information Click Here.  

How to apply

For further information on BTEI options in your area, contact the Guidance Officer at your local Education and Training Board (ETB) and the local Adult Guidance Service. You can also search for courses funded by Solas near you on the Further Education and Training Course Hub .

Where to apply

Apply to your local Education and Training Board.

The Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme (VTOS) is a second chance education and training programme which provides courses of up to two years duration for unemployed people.

Am I Eligible for the VTOS?

If you are over 21 years of age, are unemployed and have been getting certain social welfare payments for at least 6 months you can apply for the Vocational Training and Opportunities Scheme (VTOS). This scheme provides a range of courses to meet the education and training needs of unemployed people. It gives participants opportunities to improve their general level of education, gain certification, develop their skills and prepare for employment, self-employment and further education and training.

VTOS is operated through local Education and Training Boards and is aimed in particular at unemployed people who are early school-leavers.


What kinds of courses are available?

The courses range from basic education and training to advanced vocational training and there is a wide choice of subjects. The courses are full-time, about 30 hours a week (for example, 6 hours a day for 5 days) and can last up to 2 years. Many courses lead to qualifications such as the Junior Certificate, Leaving Certificate and awards at Levels 3, 4, 5 and 6 on the National Framework of Qualifications. You can find a list of VTOS courses on the Qualifax website.

How to apply

You can participate in the VTOS scheme in one of the following ways; you can be either:

  • core VTOS student - that is, attending a VTOS centre or adult education centre or
  • dispersed VTOS student, usually attending a Post-Leaving Certificate course in a further education college.

There is a list of frequently asked questions about VTOS on the Qualifax website. Contact the VTOS co-ordinator at your local VTOS centre to find out more about the VTOS courses available.

If you don't know your local ETB you will find it on the Education and Training Boards Ireland website.

See Also

Qualifax VTOS Information

ETB contacts

Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection Website


The Further Education and Training Course Hub (FETCH) is a website for adults, including early school leavers, in or out of work, to search for Further Education and Training courses. This includes full-time, part-time and online courses which are provided by a wide variety of schools, organisations and institutions. The website allows you to search for courses by keyword, location and category.


  • Intreo, the point of contact for people who are unemployed, established by the Department of Social Protection has caseworkers available to inform you about upskilling and retraining options that you may be eligible for.
  • The Adult Education Guidance Service based in your local Education and Training Board may also be able to assist you.
  • provides a full listing of all Further Education and Training courses available in Ireland. This includes full-time, part-time and online courses which are provided by a wide variety of schools, organisations and institutions. 
  • Further upskilling or education and training initiatives include Springboard, Momentum and the ICT conversion courses.  Courses are offered at different times of the year, so you should visit their websites regularly for information.
  • eCollege provide online courses for job ready individuals who require training to assist them to re-enter the labour market. Courses are available free of charge to unemployed clients or (for a fee) to employed individuals who wish to update their skills.
  • is the National Learner’s database of courses across the country.  You can search for a course by subject, institution, qualification or location.

Special Needs Assistant Scheme

The Special Needs Assistant (SNA) scheme supports teachers in meeting the care needs of children with special educational needs, arising from a disability. Almost 35,000 students with additional care needs, such as autism, are supported by more than 14,000 SNAs to attend school each day. There is one SNA for every 2.48 students accessing SNA support.

What is a Special Needs Assistant (SNA)?

A SNA is a term used by the Department of Education and Skills to describe someone who works in primary or secondary school classrooms or special schools, assisting children with everyday practical tasks. This can include helping with activities like clothing, feeding, and mobility. It is not the role of the SNA to teach pupils or provide educational support, as SNAs are not qualified teachers. All pupils, particularly those with special educational needs, must be taught directly by a class teacher.  However this year a review carried out by the National Council Special Education (NCSE) found that SNAs could play a greater role in helping students with their learning needs in the future. SNAs provide care support to children who are assessed as needing assistance to attend school. They are not appointed as a personal assistant to the individual child. SNAs are a school based resource and usually support a number of other children with care needs in the school.

How do I become a Special Needs Assistant (SNA)?

The minimum qualification necessary for appointment as a Special Need Assistant is an award of Grade D (or pass) in Irish, English and Mathematics in the Intermediate Certificate/Junior Certificate or the Day Vocational Certificate Examination however more and more schools are seeking people with a certificate in Special Needs Assistant Training Combined Level 5 & 6. Students are required to do work experience during the course if they are not already working in the area. Students may also need to obtain Garda Vetting on commencement of the course. Formal training in areas such as first aid and health and safety can support an individual’s application to work as an SNA.

Where do I find courses?

The Education and Training Board (ETB) provide a range of courses in this area  which provides the learner with knowledge, skills and competence to work in a special needs setting. To find courses offered in your local area visit or you can search on the Association of Teachers’ Education Centres in Ireland.

How much does it cost?

Courses are full-time and part-time, with some full-time courses running through the academic year from September to June. The cost of completing the course can vary, depending on where you do the course. Courses offered through the Education and Training Board take into account individual financial circumstances for example, for those who are unemployed or on a medical card.

Where can I find a SNA Job?

School Boards of Managements are responsible for the recruitment and employment of all SNAs. Sometimes SNA vacancies are advertised locally or on one of the following websites:

Many people are unsure of where to start when returning to education and often the first step is the hardest. The Adult Education Guidance and Information Services delivered by the Education and Training Boards (ETBs) provide information and guidance on learning options. The service:

  • Supports people to explore their Further Education and Training (FET) options while developing a personal progress plan

  • May offer support regarding dyslexia and psychometric testing 
  • Provides one-to-one educational guidance, information on local and national courses, help with college applications and information on funding sources

  • Is available to people over 18 years of age (and to those over 16 years, who are not in full-time education)

  • Gives priority to those who are currently unemployed

  • Provides a professional service that is free and confidential 

Contacts for these services can be found on the websites of the Adult Guidance Association and the National Centre for Guidance in Education. Or contact our Freephone Helpline on 1800 303 669. 


  • If you are unemployed then you may contact your local Employment Services / Intreo, the point of contact for people who are unemployed, established by the Department of Social Protection who will help to inform you about your options.
  • is a website for adults, including early school leavers, in or out of work, to search for Further Education and Training courses.

  • CareersPortal which is an online resource, includes lots of articles and information for people who are in transition and looking for guidance.

What is Safe Pass?

  • Safe Pass is a Health and Safety Awareness Training provided under the SOLAS Safe Pass Programme
  • Construction workers must hold a valid Safe Pass Registration Card
  • On completion of a Safe Pass course SOLAS give a registration card to those who successfully complete the course
  • This card shows employers that the card holder has attended a formal course in health and safety awareness

Where do I find a course?

There are over 100 providers of Safe Pass courses listed on the SOLAS website. These providers offer public courses and courses specifically run for an employer/company.To find a list of course providers;

  1. Visit
  2. Enter ‘Safe Pass’ into the search engine to find a list of providers
  3. For more information and contact details click on ‘Prog. Code’

How much does it cost?

The cost of a Safe Pass course is €100-€120. If you are unemployed SOLAS maybe able to provide support. Also your employer may be able to fund this training. There is further information on the SOLAS website here or call 01 5332310 / 01 533 2500.

  • Education and Training Boards co-ordinate many of the courses happening in your area.  Short courses catering to different interests ranging from languages, IT, yoga and creative writing are available depending on demand.  You may have to pay a small fee to participate in one of these courses. You can search the Further Education and Training Course Hub to find courses 
  • You should also look in your local community centre, Family Resource Centre or local area partnership as they may also organise courses at different times of the year.  Your local library, local Active Retirement Association or Age Action may also provide you with informal and formal learning opportunities.
  • You could also try volunteering.  Volunteering often offers new, informal learning opportunities as well as the chance for you to share your skills with others.  Visit to find a volunteer centre near you. 
  • Remember that most courses begin recruiting in January and September each year, so keep an eye out for open days and opportunities on the One Step Up Calendar.

  • Many of the Education and Training Boards (ETBs) offer English for Speakers of other languages (ESOL) or English for Beginners classes. To find contacts for your local Adult Guidance Initiative or ETB Click Here or contact our Freephone Helpline on 1800 303 669. 
  • provide a wide range of free online courses. They offer English language courses including Conversational English and Speaking and Writing English. For more information visit
  • Write On is an online programme by NALA to help you improve your reading, writing and spelling of the English language.
  • provides a full listing of all Further Education and Training (FET) courses available in Ireland.  The website allows you to search for courses by keyword, location and category.

Private English language schools are a more costly option. For a list of English Language Schools in Ireland Click Here


You can also visit LISTEN HERE: Language and Integration Skills for Life in Ireland. FREE lessons

This is provided by a collection of migrants, locals,  language learning experts,  speech technologists, artists, writers, and assorted folk.  Their goal is to make a collection of free online speech-based lessons in English and Irish for people living in Ireland, or planning to come here.

  • Apprenticeships are workplace and classroom training programmes for employed people aimed at developing the skills of the apprentice to meet the needs of industry and the labour market. 
  • For more information on apprenticeships please visit
  • To apply for an apprenticeship contact the apprenticeship section of your local ETB  here

  • The Education and Training Boards provide a wide range of courses ranging from basic  and second chance education ,accredited education and training courses as well as taster and hobby courses. To find contacts for your local Adult Guidance Initiative or ETB click here.
  • The Further Education and Training Course Hub (FETCH) is a website for adults, including early school leavers, in or out of work, to search for Further Education and Training (FET) courses.The Further Education and Training Course Hub (FETCH) provides a full listing of all Further Education and Training courses available in Ireland. This includes full-time, part-time and online courses which are provided by a wide variety of schools, organisations and institutions. The website allows you to search for courses by keyword, location and category.

  • is the National Learner’s Database where you can find a list of all courses that are taking place in Ireland. Before deciding on a course check that the course is accredited under the National Framework of Qualifications.

  • Springboard offer free, part-time higher education courses at certificate, degree and masters level. Courses are targeted towards people employed in areas experiencing structural unemployment.
  • To qualify you must be in receipt of an unemployed payment however no qualifying period applies. Courses are suited to people who have work experience but need a third level qualification to upskill. To apply visit or Freephone 1800 303 523 (May to September)

  • The 33 former VECs have been amalgamated to form 16 new Education and Training Boards.  FÁS has been dissolved and the training delivery functions of FÁS have transferred to the new Education and Training Boards. The Education and Training Boards will be responsible for the delivery of Further Education and Training.  SOLAS , the new Further Education and Training Authority will focus on planning, funding and driving the development of a learner focused integrated Further Education and Training sector.
  • Reform has also taken place within the Department of Social Protection, with the establishment of the new Intreo services.  Intreo aims to provide a one stop shop for people on the live register, including advice and information about education and training. 
  • The Quality and Qualifications Ireland has also been established which brings together former awarding bodies FETAC, HETAC and NQAI.  Existing qualifications will be awarded during this transition time. 

The EU Agenda for Adult Learning outlines how co-operation between EU member states will take place from 2012 through to 2020, and outlines member states commitments to five priorities:

  • Making lifelong learning a reality.
  • Improving the quality and efficiency of education and training.
  • Promoting equity, social cohesion and active citizenship through adult learning.
  • Enhancing the creativity and innovation of adults and their learning environments.
  • Improving the knowledge base on adult learning and monitoring the adult learning sector. 

The One Step Up project is managed by AONTAS who have been assigned the role of National Coordinator for the implementation of the European Agenda for Adult learning. 

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