When you leave school, you may decide that you want to continue with some type of education. Attending college or training courses will  help you learn skills needed to find specific jobs. But not all jobs will require certain training or qualifications beyond what you can achieve at secondary school. So, if you know what kind of work you would like to do, it is important to find out what, if any, additional education may be required. 

The different options and what they are called will depend on your location, but education and learning options after secondary school are typically called Further Education. You can do further education courses at colleges or with training providers.

Choosing where to go


People choose to study at college for different reasons. Some people might pick a college that is close to them, some people might pick one that has a very good course or programme. Other people might choose a college because they have family or friends there. All of these reasons are ok but remember that choosing where you go is an important decision. If you are unsure where you would like to study you can talk to a parent, carer or careers advisor to help you.

If you decide to go to college you can attend full time, which is every day for the whole week, or part time, which may be evenings or weekends.

Your country will likely have a very specific process about how to move from secondary to further education, so you will need to research the process where you live. Be sure to look for services and support specifically for individuals with disabilities.

To apply for a college course there will usually be an application form which needs to be submitted by a deadline, its important to find out when this is. There are usually college open days when you can visit and talk to other students and tutors about the course you are interested in.

Training Programmes:

Training Programmes typically involve any adult education or training outside of Colleges, Universities and Institutions. This can be a good choice for someone who:

  • Does not feel ready to get a job.
  • Needs to learn specific vocational/job-related skills.
  • Does not feel ready for the schedule or demands of a college programme.
  • Does not want to travel too far from home.
  • Does not meet entry criteria for higher education.

There are many different options depending on where you live. Some of the more common options are outlined here:

Vocational programmes – These programmes are designed to prepare you for a specific job and lead to recognised qualifications in that area for example working in retail or catering. Courses are typically full-time for 1-2 years, but there are many different options. They are provided by training organisations as well as some colleges and are a mix of classroom based study and work experience or placement.

Life Skills Programmes – These are offered at colleges and training organisations and prepare young people with learning disability for adult life. They focus on developing independence, employability and social skills.

Apprenticeships – These allow young people to learn all the practical skills they need to get a job as well as the technical qualifications. They are a great way to learn on the job through direct experience, but you will need to have an employer willing to train you on the job.

Apprenticeship programmes are typically 2-4 years and involve you spending most of your time with the employer, but also require you to attend classes, and lead to qualifications recognised within the trade or industry.

Some of the trades which offer apprenticeships include engineering, construction, carpentry, plumbing, hairdressing and electrics.

Additional support is provided for Training for Success and Apprenticeship schemes for trainees with disabilities.

For further information of Training Programmes including Training for Success Programme and Apprentice contact your local Career Adviser at Career Service NI or go to click here

What is it Like?

Each college or training provider will be different, but you can expect that attending further education will be quite different to your time in school. While we can’t say for certain what it will be like, you might find:

Larger classes. There may be many more students in your classes. This could mean that teachers or tutors have less time to get to know each student, and so it is very important that you let them know if you’re having difficulty with something.

Larger campuses and buildings. You may find that further education colleges have many more buildings and many more rooms than your secondary school. You will need to plan ahead for how to get from one class to the next and know how much time it takes so that you can make sure you’re on time for class.

More responsibility. In school your teachers probably still provides lots of help and reminders about things such as which books and materials you needed in class, or when assignments are due. In college you will need to be much more independent and take on adult responsibilities.

There might be less support available in class as well as during social times like break and lunch. 

There will be new social opportunities such as making new friends or joining clubs and you will probably be in contact with a much wider group of young people from different backgrounds and abilities.  In the My Networks section there is more information about making new friends.

Making decisions about when, where, and what to study, or even when to stop will be your responsibility although there are people who can advise and guide you about this. Now that you are an adult the decisions that your parents would have made for you as a child are now your decisions to make.

Longer/different travel requirements. At secondary school you probably took transport specific to the school. It may have been a car, people carrier or bus that carried many students from the same school from their home or bus stop directly to school. This will probably not happen if you go to college so you will need to plan your journey carefully. You may need to take public transport. If so, you will need to learn the best way from home to college thinking about where the closest bus, metro, or train is stop and how often and when they pick-up.

How to prepare

Talk to others who attend the college especially those on the same programme. If you don’t already know someone who attends, ask the school to help by putting you in contact with someone.

If there are open days go along and talk to tutors and students about what its like to attend. If you still need more information to decide, arrange a separate visit and go along with someone who can help you decide e.g. parent/carer.

If you’ve applied and been accepted, most likely you’ve already spoken with a Disability Officer to discuss any support you need and how you can access it. For example, you may be able to get help with note-taking, or extra time for tests or assignments or support with personal care.

Once you have your timetable visit the campus a couple of times to see where your classes will take place so that you become familiar with how to get from one class to the next.

Be sure you have good resources and strategies to keep organised. Remember that it will be up to you to know your timetable and know when assignments are due.  Use daily diaries, calendars, or applications with notifications on your phone. Many people will use strategies like separating everything relating to different classes into different coloured folders or creating checklists to help remember what books or materials are needed each day.