Frequently Asked Questions

General Queries:

Can I avail of the Adult Education Guidance Service?

Yes, regardless of your employment or education background you can use the service. The only requirement is that you are living in Co Kildare or Co Wicklow.

How much is the service?

The service is Free.


I want to return to education, but I do not know where to start?

Simply make an appointment with your local Guidance Service. We will talk you through the various options available.

I want to go to college, but I have no Leaving Cert?

If you are over 23, you do not need a Leaving Cert to go to college/university. You make a Mature Student application which will consider things like your life history and work experience rather than exam results. Depending on your course and career interests, the Guidance Service will be able to advise and guide you in those initial steps towards returning to education. If you are under 23, you can do a PLC course which can lead to a degree through the QQI-FET/HELS scheme. Contact us for more information.

I do not understand the QQI system or why it is relevant to me?

QQI replaced the old FETAC system a few years ago. All qualifications need to be accredited nowadays. That means, they must be independently assessed so people know what standard of course they are signing up for.
For example, a Junior Certificate is a QQI level 3, the Leaving Certificate is a QQI Level 5, and a Degree can be either a Level 7 or 8. The Guidance Service will be able to provide more relevant information to you.

I am currently unemployed. Are there any free courses I can do?

There are lots of ways to continue your education, further your training and acquire new skills:

  • Reading and Writing classes – part time courses in your local Further Education Centre Levels 1-3
  • Full time courses are run in your local Further Education Centre. To be eligible you must be over 21 and 6 months receiving a social Welfare payment. These courses are called VTOS. Levels 4-6
  • Part time courses also run in your local Further Education Centre. these are called BTEI. Levels 3-6
  • Post Leaving Certificate (PLC) courses: PLC courses are open to school-leavers and adult participants, offering a mixture of practical work, academic work and work experience. They offer courses at Levels 5&6
  • Springboard: provides free higher education places for unemployed people. You can keep your social welfare payment for as long are you are entitled to it while you are participating on a Springboard course. Levels 6-9
  • FIT (Fastrack to IT): provides targeted information technology training for people who are getting certain social welfare payments or signing for credits. Courses include office administration, web design and programming, broadband communications and PC maintenance. Levels 5&6

Can you explain what the CAO is?

The CAO stands for the Centre Applications Office.

“The Central Applications Office processes applications for undergraduate courses in Irish Higher Education Institutions (HEIs). Decisions on admissions to undergraduate courses are made by the HEIs who instruct CAO to make offers to successful candidates.”

In a nutshell, if you want to go to college or university, you must fill out a CAO application. This is the same if you are a Leaving Cert student or a Mature Student (over 23). The Guidance Service can assist you within your application.

What funding options are available to me if I return to education?

There are several options available when looking for funding for education. However, each has its own terms and conditions. For example, grant may consider the following:
your earnings last year, current social welfare payment, length of time on qualifying payments.

Below is a list of the most popular grants:

  • The SUSI Grant – state grant aid for all students. Grant given on your previous year’s total income (or parents if living at home)
  • (BTEA) Back to Education Allowance – Social welfare payment
  • The 1916 Bursary – educational disadvantage
  • The St Vincent De Paul Education Fund
  • Mediator’s Fund
  • U-versity – social disadvantage


I want to return to employment, but I do not know where to start?

Like education, there are more careers now than there have ever been and navigating your way through them can be daunting. A good start is always to talk with a Guidance Counsellor who can best assess your needs and align you with the best and most realistic pathway back into employment or a new career.

I would like to change my existing Career, but I do not know where to start?

Career Transitions are becoming more popular than ever before. Making the change from an existing job/career is an area which requires time, planning and educated advice.
Before making the decision to change, ensure you have talked with a qualified Adult Education Guidance Counsellor, who will talk you through the process and the ins and outs of a career change.

I am currently on unemployment benefits, and would like to upskill or retrain, what are my options?

You have several options open to you. The CE (Community Employment) Scheme being one, “The Community Employment (CE) programme is designed to help people who are long-term unemployed (or otherwise disadvantaged) to get back to work by offering part-time and temporary placements in jobs based within local communities.” There is also the Mediator’s Fund, which can be utilised to fund a course with a view to upskilling or retraining with a goal of returning to employment.

Can I refer a Family Member/Friend to the Service?

Anyone can contact us. Just contact your local service and we will do the rest.


Is there funding available to Start your own Business?

Yes, there is funding available. Some in the form of Grant, such as Enterprise Ireland ( and others in the form of the STEA (Short Term Enterprise Allowance). This allowance is for people who “have lost their job and want to start their own business.”

Are there courses which can help me develop my Business/Idea?

Yes, there are several (SYOB) Start Your Own Business courses available. The most popular are run in The Kildare Enterprise Centre in Naas and the Wicklow Local Enterprise Office in Rathnew. For more information on these courses, and other SYOB courses please contact us.


Is there a Guidance Service local to me?

Yes. Please see our contact page for details