Further Education and Training


Education opens doors for us. It helps us to achieve our potential. It has huge benefits for the individual and for society too as it leads us to new horizons of scientific innovation, social progress and the creative arts. In Ireland, we have become a society which places a huge value on education. We have almost a quarter of a million people in third level education, and the highest proportion of school leavers progressing to higher education in the EU. This is something to be proud of insofar as it represents our collective determination to advance as a society, and, importantly how we can provide access to education for most people in society.

However, in Ireland, 1 in 6 students still drop-out of college in their first year. Rising fees and the increasing cost of rent have also meant that more students are struggling to finance their college education. The average age of graduation has fallen across OECD countries, meaning that students are beginning their degrees at a younger age. In Ireland, students typically choose their degree course at around 17 years of age; and understandably, this can put a lot of pressure on students to make big decisions about their futures.

Further Education and Training

Third level education is a wonderful choice for many students, but often, our focus on this as the best route for all students is limiting, and can exclude students from different backgrounds (such as older students, students with children, students with caring responsibilities etc.). That’s where Further Education and Training comes in.

Further Education and Training (FET) covers a range of educational options for individuals over 16 years of age. It covers programmes such as apprenticeships, post Leaving-Certificate (PLC) courses and traineeships. These courses typically have a much tighter focus on preparing for the world of work, many provide learning on the job while being paid a wage, and some also provide an alternative route to third level education.

These courses have always been available, but in 2019 a need was identified to raise awareness of these options and reposition FET to a new generation of students. Language were brought on board to help create this new campaign.


The existing literature pointed to a number of challenges facing the sector. There was an entrenched cultural narrative that these “alternative” forms of education were inferior to a university education, and that they were only an option when you had “failed” in some way to ascend to higher level. We also conducted qualitative research among Leaving Certificate students, unemployed adults and employed adults looking to upskill, and found that awareness of FET was low, especially among students. Our campaign would have to raise awareness about the opportunities FET could open up, and positively influence the negative perceptions surrounding the sector.

Our research also revealed that some attitudes to FET were changing, and many would consider it a viable alternative to a university education. Our goal would be to build on this emerging positive sentiment and grow the conversation.

We are the makers

We began to think about our audience for FET. They are all at different life stages, with different touchpoints, views and experiences to consider. What they share is the desire to learn and achieve their potential. This campaign wouldn’t just be about providing information, it would be about tapping into this sense of ambition and creating a narrative that could inspire. The message we wanted to express was that FET is an opportunity to choose the path that’s right for you, and that it gives you the tools to succeed in the real world. This is the beating heart of FET. The challenge was to create a campaignthat would be relevant and inspiring for prospective learners.

For our campaign, we developed the unifying rallying call “We are the makers”. This encapsulated the sense of possibility FET could offer, as well as the self-determination and ambition of learners around the country. With FET, you can choose your own path on your terms; and you can be the “maker” of your own future.  

We matched this messaging with a bright, contemporary and dynamic visual framework to bring the campaign to life, including imagery of real students and graduates that we had interviewed around Ireland.


The campaign launched during European Skills Week in October 2019 over media and PR channels. We created a website which would not only provide practical information on FET, but also feature news and stories to support and inspire prospective learners.

It was widely supported throughout the SOLAS network (the Europe-wide network for vocational education and training) and will be expanded regionally. The next phase of the campaign will be facilitated by our Local Campaign Communications Toolkit which provides campaign guidelines, advertising templates and key messaging. We have also created a bank of photography featuring real students within their learning environments around the country. This can be used by local Education and Training Boards to broadcast the campaign at a local level.

Overall, “We are the makers” contained an empowering message for people interested in learning. In a world where upskilling, life-long learning and constant reinvention have become the norm, new inroads to education and different forms of blended learning will be invaluable for a broader group of people than ever before. It is vital that nobody ever feels that “education isn’t for them”, and that every individual – no matter their life stage, personal circumstances or socio-economic background – should have the option to achieve their potential through education.