Cork Hospitality Group Launches Apprenticeship Programme to Tackle Staff Shortage
One of Cork’s largest hospitality groups, the Market Lane Restaurant Group, has introduced an innovative apprenticeship programme in response to the ongoing shortage of qualified staff in the industry. With establishments including Market Lane, ORSO, Goldie, Elbow Lane, and The Castle Café, the group employs up to 175 staff. Traditionally, they have relied on various recruitment methods, from university open days to exchange programmes with overseas students. However, the pandemic has exacerbated the challenges faced by the hospitality sector, with many bars and restaurants operating restricted opening hours due to a shortage of staff.
In an effort to address this issue and attract new recruits to the restaurant industry in the long term, the Market Lane Restaurant Group has launched the “earn as you learn” apprenticeship programme. The initiative allows both existing staff and new recruits to take time off work to attend culinary training at Munster Technical University (MTU) and then apply their learning on the job under the guidance of qualified staff in one of the group’s restaurants. Salaries above the minimum wage are provided by the restaurant, while college fees are subsidized by the government. The resulting qualifications are highly transferable, offering individuals opportunities beyond the restaurant industry.
The decision to adopt this approach was influenced by the response to the group’s “no experience required” advertisement for new commis chefs. Avril O’Sullivan, a 22-year-old school-leaver and home cook, was one of the successful applicants. She will begin her Springboard Certificate in Culinary Skills programme at MTU in September, an educational route she had not previously considered.
To oversee the apprenticeship programme and guide staff towards the most suitable courses, the Market Lane Restaurant Group has appointed Lee Scahill as the kitchen training co-ordinator. Scahill, who has been with the group for 13 years, previously served as head chef. Conrad Howard, head of the Market Lane Group, acknowledged the investment required for this initiative, stating, “Offering this opportunity to new staff members at the time of recruitment involves a leap of faith on our part and a big up-front investment in terms of resources. But we believe that this is a great way forward to attract new blood into the industry, and we are absolutely delighted that Avril will be starting out on a new career path in September.”
Scahill emphasized the high dropout rate among culinary arts students across the country and stressed the importance of aligning the work undertaken in the restaurants with what students are taught at college. By involving apprentices in a professional workforce, they feel a sense of pride in their pursuit of a career in the restaurant industry. Scahill added, “So, it also helps engender pride amongst students in their pursuit of a career in the restaurant industry, something we feel has been lacking in recent years.”
The introduction of the apprenticeship programme by the Market Lane Restaurant Group is a significant step towards addressing the shortage of qualified staff in the hospitality industry. By offering a combination of practical experience and formal education, the programme aims to attract new talent and provide them with the necessary skills and qualifications for a successful career in the restaurant industry. This initiative not only benefits individuals like Avril O’Sullivan but also contributes to the overall growth and development of the industry in Cork and beyond.