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CAO system set to be overhauled as government plans to ramp up apprenticeship numbers

At present the CAO doesn’t include applications for apprenticeships, or some further education traineeships.

Harris has said the snobby attitude that the only way to progress in life is to go to university should be dropped.
Harris has said the snobby attitude that the only way to progress in life is to go to university should be dropped.
Image: Shutterstock/Monkey Business Images

THE CAO SYSTEM could be reformed under new plans brought forward from Higher Education Minister Simon Harris today.

The changes will see access to apprenticeships and other alternative paths to college encouraged, with the Department of Further Education’s three-year strategy aiming to increase apprenticeships to 10,000 every year.

At present the CAO doesn’t include applications for apprenticeships, or some other further education traineeships or courses.

The new plans will see one platform which will offer college and university courses alongside other avenues on one single portal.

The minister said it is a real chance to overhaul and change the culture and conversation about education after secondary school. 

Harris has previously spoken out about the “need to drop the snobby attitude that the only way to progress in life is to go to university”.

He has also launched a scheme that gives a €3,000 financial incentive for employers to take on apprentices. 

Speaking today, Harris said: “The Department has ambitious goals to reform our higher education sector, to grow our research and innovation system and to develop the skills agenda.

“At the heart of our Department is an objective to ensure everyone regardless of their background, age, gender, or address – achieves their best potential, whether that is through education or the workforce.

“The pandemic has also made us confront many of the challenges we face and I believe this Department offers a unique opportunity to ensure nobody is left behind as we rebuild and recover.”

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As part of the strategy, the department’s ambition is to reform training in upskilling and reskilling opportunities in areas of economic growth including in the area of green and digital skills. 

The minister also said he plans to introduced new legislation to reform higher education governance. Harris has already set out that universities must set out sexual harassment policies. 

A review of the Student Grant Scheme will also take place.

College places have been expanded by 4,130, Harris said. The minister said there has been a significant fall off in the number of international students applying to Irish universities.

However, an additional 6,500 people have applied for a college place this year. 

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