A new apprenticeship degree programme to give bar managers and pub employees a professional qualification has been launched, which it is hoped will tackle a serious staff shortage in the trade after the impact of the Covid pandemic.

The three-year degree course is supported by the Vintners' Federation of Ireland (VFI) along with Griffith College and Solas, the State’s education and training body for further education.

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.

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

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

First-year apprentice Emma Hanley (23), said she was attracted by being able to work and learn at the same time.

Emma Hanley

Emma who is apprenticed at The Old Quarter Bar in Limerick city said: "I have always enjoyed working in a bar and the apprenticeship has given me a real insight into my chosen career."

JJ Mulcahy, owner of The Old Quarter, which has three apprentices, including Emma, said the new programme is a great way to retain and develop staff.

"Experience is critical in this trade, but so is knowledge of the ever-changing legal and regulatory framework.

"This is an industry which can give you a good career, but you have to put the time and effort into learning it."

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