Bar apprenticeship launched in bid to tackle post-pandemic staff shortages

The first ever apprenticeship for bar managers is being launched in Limerick, with the aim of tackling a shortage of hospitality staff in Ireland.

The three-year course is the result of a collaboration between the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland (VFI) and Griffith College, and is supported by Ireland’s State agency for further education, Solas.

The course will be available through Griffith College in Cork, Limerick and Dublin, and will be launched by the Minister of State for Further and Higher Education Niall Collins on Monday in The Old Quarter pub in Limerick city.

Emma Hanley with fellow apprentice Dylan Naughton (Eamon Ward/PA)

A Failte Ireland survey in February indicated that up to nine out of 10 hospitality businesses had problems recruiting staff, with many employers linking the shortage to a lack of training.

VFI chief executive Paul Clancy said the apprenticeship would be critical to alleviating the issue.

“At a time when staff recruitment is cited as the number one issue for the hospitality business, this degree will play a vital role in retaining key personnel,” he said.

As part of the Bar Manager Apprenticeship Degree, students already working in the trade can be sponsored by their employer to develop the broad range of skills necessary to operate at the highest level in the industry, spending one day a week in lectures for three years.

School leavers with experience in the bar trade and career changers are also eligible.

We have worked closely with the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland to develop a practical and applied qualification which will enhance the skills and competencies of staff as the pub industry reignites after the challenges of Covid

One of the first people to sign up, 23-year-old Emma Hanley – an apprentice at The Old Quarter pub in Limerick city – said she was attracted to the offer of being able to work and learn at the same time.

“I have always enjoyed working in a bar and the apprenticeship has given me a real insight into my chosen career,” she said.

“The degree is very well structured, allowing me to learn in-depth about the trade, whilst putting the practical elements to use and earning at the same time. It is a great way to learn and you gain great insight.”

JJ Mulcahy, owner of The Old Quarter, which has three apprentices, said the course gave “a great advantage” to retain and develop staff.

“The concept is wonderful. This is an industry which can give you a good career, but you have to put the time and effort into learning it,” he said.

Emma Hanley with fellow apprentices Dylan Naughton, Cathal Callinan, Callan Cummins and Shane O’Keefe at the Old Quarter Pub in Limerick city (Eamon Ward/PA)

Mary Liz Trant, interim director of the National Apprenticeship Office, described the program as exceptional and innovative.

“This apprenticeship is a key example of an in-demand skills-based course that forms part of this transformational agenda,” she said.

Griffith College president Professor Diarmuid Hegarty said the qualification would assist the bar trade post-pandemic.

“We have worked closely with the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland to develop a practical and applied qualification which will enhance the skills and competencies of staff as the pub industry reignites after the challenges of Covid,” he said.

Employers are eligible for a grant per registered apprentice, and applications are now open for the September intake on Griffith College’s website.

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