I am not being overdramatic when I say that doing a Post-Leaving Cert Course (PLC) was the best decision I’ve ever made for myself. Seriously. Last September, I enrolled in a Level 5 course in Art, Craft, and Design, and it gave me so much freedom to learn and grow, not only as an artist and student but also just as a person. With the new school year starting soon, I want to state my case for PLCs. Maybe you’re not really sure what they’re about, and maybe you don’t think they’re for you. But I truly believe that everyone should at least consider giving a PLC a try.
There’s this stereotype that PLCs are only for people who didn’t get enough points for their dream course, and while there’s absolutely no shame in doing a PLC to help you get the points to progress to university, this isn’t the case for everyone. There were people in my class this year who had gotten their place in college and deferred it for a year. There were people who were doing the art PLC to develop a portfolio to go to art college. There were even people who had no intention of going into the art world, and were just doing the PLC because art was a hobby of theirs! And there were people like me who still had no idea what they wanted to study, so decided to give art a go. PLCs are for everyone, even if you think they’re not for you.
Of course, each PLC is different, so it’s important to do your own research. You can find plenty of information on Careers Portal’s Course Finder (https://careersportal.ie/courses/simple_search.php), which can help you search for PLCs by subject or by area in the country. Unlike most other third-level courses, the application is not done through the CAO. Instead, you apply directly through the college’s website. What happens next varies depending on the college and the specific course. For my PLC, I had a super informal online interview, as well as a small portfolio. But don’t let any of that put you off. The tutors want you on their course– the whole point of PLCs in the first place is to keep people in education. As long as you show a real willingness to learn and grow, you’re bound to find a course that will suit your needs!
Over the past year, I had classes in drawing, painting, ceramics and mixed media, as well as art appreciation, work experience and communications. I found the variety really kept me interested. I was lucky enough to be in one of the few courses this year that allowed in-person classes (with social distancing, obviously), and I found that this really brought the group together. We each had our own space in the art studio that we could make our own, and we were encouraged to keep challenging ourselves and trying new things. I was surprised by how different my relationship was with my tutors when compared to secondary school. In adult education, you’re treated as a equal. It often felt more like a fellow artist offering me insight into their own practice, rather than a teacher telling me what to do.
Doing a PLC opens up so many paths for further learning. Some people choose to go directly to college, using their PLC qualification to access courses that they may not have been accepted into based solely on their Leaving Cert results. Others go straight into the working world. I’m lucky enough to be able to do another year of my art PLC, this time a Level 6, or “Advanced” course. I’ll be working with the same tutors and mostly the same classmates to learn even more skills and develop my practice as an artist, before going on to university the following year.
To be honest, I’m still not really sure if art is the career for me. I still don’t know what I want to work at for the rest of my life, or even what I’ll study after my Level 6 course. But one thing I know for sure is that choosing to do PLC has given me so much. Not only have I learned new techniques and skills, but I’ve also been given the space to learn and grow as a person, and I’ve made some amazing friends. I can’t wait to start my second year in September and see everything that it has to offer!