St Declan's College

Parents guide to career guidance advice for students

An information document regarding career paths
Parents guide to career guidance advice for students

12th November 2021

Dear Parent/Guardian of 6th Year Students,

I hope this finds you safe and well in these challenging and uncertain times we still find ourselves in. I have put together a career guidance information document below for you to help you support and guide your son with his choices for next year. I would really appreciate it if you took the time to go through this with your son so he knows we are working together to support him.

Plan for 6th Year

As with any 6th Year group, it is important to be future focused towards the Leaving Certificate exams and beyond for 2022. I have often said to the students that the Leaving Cert is like a "job" in 6th Year. However, it is not the most important thing in their lives and it never will be. They will move on to different areas, university, college, apprenticeships, employment, and all will carve out exciting and meaningful futures for themselves. The events of the Covid-19 pandemic are not going to define them and it is important to remember this. In fact, one positive to emerge from all of this is that the boys will become more resilient from having to deal with a life challenge which they have had no control over. This resilience will benefit them as they meet challenges with their studies and throughout their lives in general.

Grades/Career Appointments

All students have set grade/points targets for each subject. I have asked students to write these into their journals so you and their subject teachers can see them. It is important that they are striving towards achieving this target in each of their exams that they sit throughout the year. I encourage you to discuss this with him when he receives reports home from school. The students can make one to one career appointments with me. Some students think they have to wait until they know what they want to do, this is not the case. Please encourage your son to make an appointment. These are available all year and I am delighted to help and guide them.

College Open Days

In a normal year, during November/December, your son would be preparing to visit some college open days. There are a limited number of onsite open days planned but most are taking place virtually. Dates are available on the ‘events calendar’ on the Qualifax website. I will try to cover the dates in class and I always encourage students to attend at least one open day. Students need to register for these days. For you as a parent, this year is a great opportunity to get involved in the career research process and engage with the virtual open days at home with your son. Plan ahead by booking the events which he wants to attend, check the schedule of the particular facilities/courses he wishes to research and write down some questions to ask on the day.

All of the colleges will have open day schedules on their websites.


The CAO have made some changes this year in relation to accessing their handbook. They have gone completely digital, for environmental reasons. Your son has been given an opportunity to download this booklet to his phone during his weekly guidance class using a QR code. He can apply online through using a credit/laser card since November 5th. The closing date for application to CAO is February 1st 2020. Applications received on or before 20th of January will be charged at the reduced rate of €30. I have asked the students not to apply until I have covered more of the CAO process in their guidance classes. All information on applying is in the CAO booklet. He can use the change of mind facility between May 5th and July 1st once the course is not labelled ‘restricted application’. CAO are extremely strict on deadlines so they must be adhered to. There are 44 colleges in the CAO system. Students can apply for levels 6, 7 & 8 through this system.

There is also a link to the CAO information for parents tab below:

Apprenticeships/SOLAS courses

SOLAS (formerly FAS) run a variety of courses. Students can register for these courses once they have completed their Leaving Cert.

SOLAS are also the body who are in charge of apprenticeships. It is important to be aware there are now a large number of new types of apprenticeships. As you may know apprenticeships can be difficult to obtain so students are being encouraged to actively seek a potential employer at this stage. Depending on the restrictions you may be in a position to help your son gain some work shadowing/experience in the area he is interested in so that he has an idea what is involved/ahead of him. He may need a CV, letter of application and ‘safety pass’ course to apply for some apprenticeships. Your son will need your assistance with all of this as it might be difficult for him as a 17 or 18 year old to approach an employer without your guidance. Please help him with the skills to make these connections/approaches.

Apprenticeships provide a great opportunity to engage with an "earn and learn" model of further education and are gaining in popularity every year. Traditional companies like the ESB, Defence forces, Irish Rail etc will begin their recruitment campaigns in the spring of 2022. However, many companies in the financial services, insurance and biopharma are now offering competitive apprenticeship programmes. Further information can be found through the following link.

PLC Courses

Application to FETAC/QQI/ Post Leaving Cert courses are to individual colleges or through setting up a FETCH account. There is a link from the CAO website to this FETCH system. This is a new system introduced for 2022. These PLC’s are at level 5 and are 1 year in duration. The closing dates vary but are usually around Jan/Feb. Students are normally interviewed for these courses before their Leaving Certificate. They may need a school reference. They should apply in writing to Mr Avery for this reference. Interview skills will be covered in class and on an individual basis where necessary. Early application to these courses is advised as many are on a first come first served basis

I cannot overemphasise the importance of applying for a PLC course even just to have as an "insurance policy" should they not get the college course they desire. It is also a great route for a student who may have the points for their desired area of study but may not be fully sure of what he specifically wants to study. A post leaving certificate course is an introduction to a field of study which he can progress to in college or university should he wish to. More information can be found through the links below.


I am aware that finance for college is a major concern for many parents. Information on financial support for further and higher education is available on www.susi ie. Your son may be eligible for a maintenance grant. You and your son can fill in the ‘eligibility reckoner’ to establish if he will be able to apply. Applications for this grant should open next March/April. Students apply on line and they will need your assistance.

HEAR Scheme

The HEAR (Higher Education Access Scheme) is available to school leavers from socio-economic disadvantaged backgrounds. HEAR applicants must meet a range of financial, social and cultural indicators to be considered for a reduced points place and extra college support. Students apply for the HEAR scheme on their CAO form. Please check dates and documentation he will need to send to CAO.

Further information is available on

DARE Scheme

If your son has a disability (physical/mental health/ongoing illness/learning) he may wish to apply for the DARE scheme (Disability Access Route to Education). This is a supplementary admissions scheme which offers college places on reduced points and extra college support.

There is an online seminar called ‘Better Options’ on Saturday 27th November from 10-4 that you both can attend. This has been mentioned to your son during his guidance class.

Students apply for the DARE on their CAO form.

There are 3 sections: Section A: filled in by your son (with your assistance), Section B: filled in by Mr Mc Glue and/or Ms Tierney with your son and Section C: form filled in by a Dr/Consultant/documentation (proof of disability). It is very important that your son lets us know early he intends to apply for DARE.

Further information is available on

Further advice

It is in the students’ interests to keep their options open by applying to a variety of courses in different colleges/ look at and apply for different apprenticeships. I always encourage the students to have Plan A, B & C.

I have covered a lot on goal setting, motivation, study techniques, study plans, mindfulness techniques and looking after ones health (physical, emotional, mental).

The following websites provide useful information on courses and careers: (course information/Open day events calendar)

Careers and Education (students have been asked to sign up with their e mail)

All of the above has been or will be covered with the students during careers class in school and some of it is updated on School Wise. Should you have any queries either now or throughout the year please don’t hesitate to contact me at the school number if you have any questions concerning your son’s choices.

Many thanks for your time and attention as I support your son through his final year with us.

Karen Tierney

Guidance Counsellor

17 Aug 2022
1st year school book collection
18 Aug 2022
2nd 3rd 5th & 6th year school book collection
23 Aug 2022
Staff Day
Booklists for all years and information regarding additional funding for back to school issued by the government this week
We bid a fond farewell to school chaplain, Fr Michael O'Grady PP and Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Jude Okolo DD.
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