Vocational education committees and individual schools and colleges outside the VEC system have been given an allocation of post-leaving certificate places for 2004-05 equivalent to their 2003-04 allocation, except where the application by an individual school or college was for a lesser number. Nationally, a total of 28,588 places have been approved for post-leaving certificate courses for 2004-05. The post leaving certificate programme is a whole-time programme of vocational education and training designed to provide participants with specific vocational skills and to enhance their prospects of securing lasting, full-time employment. Guidelines issued to VECs and schools by my Department require that course content is relevant to labour market needs, there is a demonstrated local or national need for the provision in the training discipline chosen and that schools should be in a position to demonstrate a labour market justification for the course.
Within the constraint of the overall number of places allocated, each VEC has discretion to determine the distribution of the approved places between individual schools and colleges under its remit. Optimisation between the number of post leaving certificate places and type of courses offered and demand for courses in the relevant catchment area are determined by individual providers. In 2003-04, over 1,000 courses in over 60 designations were offered to students in 210 centres throughout the country. The post leaving certificate sector plays a key role in providing occupationally-relevant education to a substantial body of school leavers.