Shane O’Keefe and Emma Hanley (front) with Cathal Callinan, Dylan Naughton and Callan Cummins ahead of the launch of the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland Bar Manager Apprenticeship programme, at The Old Quarter Pub in Limerick city. Photo: Eamon Ward

Nobody barred-new scheme to boost pub staff levels

The hospitality sector has faced a huge shortage of staff affecting the ability of bars and restaurants to operate effectively.

A new apprenticeship degree to train a new generation of bar managers was launched this week and the three-year degree course is backed by State and employer funding and is available in Cork.

The Vintners’ Federation of Ireland (VFI) and Griffith College, with the support of Solas, the state agency for further education, have joined forces to try to alleviate the pub sector’s post-Covid struggle to retain staff.

A Fáilte Ireland survey released in February indicated that as many as nine out of ten hospitality businesses have problems recruiting staff, with many employers linking the shortage to a lack of training.

VFI Chief Executive Paul Clancy said the apprenticeship, available nationally through Griffith College in Cork, Dublin and Limerick, will be critical to addressing 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.

The Bar Manager Apprenticeship Degree is a work-based learning programme in which apprentices will be able to work, earn and learn to become fully-qualified bar managers.

Students already working in the bar trade are 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 over three years. School leavers with experience in the bar trade and career changers are also eligible.

First-year VFI Bar Manager Apprentice Emma Hanley (23), said she was attracted by 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,” said Emma, who is apprenticed to The Old Quarter Pub in Limerick city.

“The VFI’s Bar Manager Apprenticeship Degree is very well structured, allowing me 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 including Emma, and which hosted the launch of the programme by Minister of State for Further and Higher Education, Niall Collins on Monday, said the apprenticeship is a wonderful way to retain and develop staff.

“The work and study elements of the VFI’s Bar Manager Apprenticeship Degree gives a great advantage in terms of career options,” he said. “Experience is critical in this trade, but so is knowledge of the ever-changing legal and regulatory framework. The concept is wonderful.”

Employers are eligible for a grant, per registered apprentice, and applications are now open for the September intake. Employers can register interest at