Simon Harris on Promoting Trades as a Third Level Option

Excellent article and newstalk interview👏

Ireland has created a culture of snobbery around third-level education with students told they need to go to college to achieve their goals in life, according to the Higher Education Minister.

On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Simon Harris said the Irish education system has devalued the importance of trades and other career paths.

He said the culture has left us in situation where we don’t have enough people to build and retrofit homes – with many young people unaware of the many career pathways open to them after school.

“I have been in dozens of secondary schools this year talking to students about their options after leaving school and being honest, you can see the fear and the anxiety in the eyes of so many,” he said.

“We are living in a country here where I actually think we are outliers in terms of the pressure we actually put on young people; in terms of you must get X amount of points and if you don’t get X amount of points, you can’t fulfil your dreams or your career.

“It’s not true and we have allowed a narrowing of the conversation of the options after school.”

He said we have created a culture of snobbery around third level education with young people pressured to go to university, even if it is not the best path for them.

“I don’t say that to blame parents or students,” he said. “I think that’s a culture we have created in Ireland where it has all been about … sometimes the question is tell me the name of the university you want to go to rather than tell me what you want to do with your life and we’ll show you how to get there.”

Minister Harris said the Government has now changed the CAO website to ensure that students can now see options for further education and training and lots of information about apprenticeships when they log on.

“It’s not accidental that we have a shortage of people to build houses in this country,” he said.

“It’s not accidental from a policy point of view that we don’t have enough people to retrofit homes in this country.

“It’s the result of the fact that we have, in my view, devalued the importance we attach to trades and to alternative routes after school.

“So, what I am trying to do is broaden that conversation, create better pathways between further education and higher education, highlight the importance of apprenticeships and the fact that they are third level and can provide a qualification and well-paid job for you.

“We’ve got to move beyond this idea that when the young adult sits down with mum or dad or teacher, the only conversation they’re having is about the CAO and points and actually start talking about all of the different ways to get where you want to be.”

Minister Harris also said a new information hub will open next week to help Ukrainian refugees arriving in Ireland to continue their studies.

“I think it’s really important we make it as easy as possible for a person who comes from Ukraine as a student to continue their studies,” he said.

“We can’t allow Putin’s wish of depriving the next generation of Ukrainian leaders an opportunity to finish their education and in due course to lead in their country.”

He said the new hub will be a ‘one-stop-shop’ where students can access information on available course and talk to guidance counsellors and experts form admissions offices.

Listen to the newstalk interview

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