This week the results of the leaving cert came out and it transported me back to a moment I’ll always remember, those tentative hours morning standing in the school gym awaiting the little brown envelope that would determine my future. The hope was that I’d get course I’d listed on my CAO form, that would keep me at home (even back then I was a reluctant traveller). Aside from the actual results, I had one big worry, would I get in Sir Henrys with my cousins ID that night? I had put in the effort, I was expecting the results, the date of birth was right, the photograph was doctored, it was as authentic as a fake ID could be. The result came in, it was a win, I was in! Sixteen and a half, rave music, a full bar and seventeen euro, it was a recipe for success.
My results for the leaving cert weren’t as big a success. But neither was it a massive worry, whilst jobs weren’t exactly thick on the ground, neither was there a recession. There was no big emphasis on what courses to do in order to secure a job, marine studies, , food science, agri finance anything would do, it was fairly certain we’d get a job afterwards. Considering Athlone, Sligo or Dublin weren’t decisions we had to make either as generally people didn’t have to leave the province to continue their education, if you couldn’t get a bus from home, then it wasn’t really a runner.
Arts for girls to become teachers and Engineering for boys to become property developers were sure bets. Failing completing a college university degree course, there was always an alternative one year course available, Office Information Systems, Catering, Graphics or good ole Media Studies. And for the more hands on there was hairdressing or beauticians for girls or a plumbing or electrical apprenticeship for the lads, something for everyone and guaranteed that there’d be a job available after graduation.
So in those days the ‘Leaving’ Certificate simply marked the leaving of Secondary school and the start of the next phase of education or a new phase of joining the workforce. However these days in many cases ‘The Leaving’ in many cases marks the Leaving of the country as more and more students are considering UK, Scotland and greater Europe to continue their studies. Their decisions are often financial ones or accessibility to the course which they want to study but one thing is for sure, that those who are choosing to study outside of Ireland are less likely to come back and start their working lives here. Once they leave, there’s a high possibility they won’t be back to work or share their wise learnings with us in Ireland. So it’s the Leaving indeed.
More and more students are opting to study in the UK and Scotland in order to enrol in their course of choice but the stakes are a little higher now than before. It’s no longer enough to choose a course just out of mild interest or downright curiosity, now leavers have to choose based on the range of available jobs out there.
The availability of teaching and engineering has depleted to the point that positions have become as rare as hens teeth. Office Information Systems is finished, because no sooner had we learned all about how to send a facsimile transmission than it become extinct and these days everything we need is available on our hand held devices not massive pieces of hardware. The chances of making a decent living in beauty or plumbing are slim as evident by the numbers of salons and vans abandoned all over the country. Even medicine requires clarification, whilst specialists might have some chance of a career after they’ve beaten off half of Baghdad for an internship, General Practitioners are now leaving Ireland in their droves to seek work abroad. So where to go and what route is best to choose after the Leaving Cert, if indeed you don’t want to leave?
Or are the cream of our ‘Leaving Cert students’ destined/forced to leave Ireland for greener pastures or sandy dunes, built for export, and if so are we to become a scattered nation of reluctant emigrants?