The restaurant industry's association has pledged 4,000 new apprenticeships for chefs, sommeliers and professional waiters over the next four years, with the aid of government training grants or other incentives.
The sector wants to boost standards across Ireland, and to capitalise on a drive to make Ireland a 'food nation' in a bid to draw more visitors here. Adrian Cummins, Restaurant Association of Ireland (RAI) chief executive, will discuss the matter next month with the minister for training and skills, Ciaran Cannon.
It is envisaged that some of the proposed apprenticeships could be taken up by people on social welfare - or as part of skills retraining - and that the first of these will start by next September. "We are putting forward a proposal to create 1,000 apprenticeships a year for the next four years, provided a scheme is put in place by the relevant authorities like Failte Ireland, Fas or Solas - the new training authority which will replace Fas -"
Cummins said "We need a clear vision , and the use of accredited training courses, of which the physical apprenticeship would be a front line work placement. The employer needs to be incentivised to take these on, and we believe a reduced PRSI rate, or a straight grant or training allowance for the apprentice, could work in this way" Cummins said that only 150 chefs were training in around ten colleges in Ireland annually, and that jobs for a 'doubling or trebling' of that output, could be created.
He said that there was a ' need for more technical skills ' in the sector and that colleges could be better utilised through separate day and evening course programmes. "CAO points for culinary arts increased dramatically in 2011, which shows a demand for work in the area, along with the popularity of cookery shows. We also believe Ireland should have a culinary centre of excellence to capitalise on the high quality foods being produced here."
Nicola Cooke Industry Correspondent, The Sunday Business Post 15/04/12