Apprentice scheme tackles skillls issue

Chef Niall McKenna with apprentices Cathal OKane and Jack Kerr
Chef Niall McKenna with apprentices Cathal OKane and Jack Kerr

Award-winning chef Niall McKenna today (Tuesday 12th May 2017) announced the launch of his fourth consecutive Chef Apprentice Programme for the 2017/18 academic year, amid real concerns of a skills gap in the sector.

The scheme within the James Street South restaurant group, in collaboration with Belfast Met, has provided considerable ‘front line’ experience for the next generation of hospitality professionals.

Previously endorsed by the Department for the Economy, the apprenticeship programme is open to 16-24 year olds who are given the opportunity to learn and hone essential skills from some of the best chefs in Northern Ireland.

Working across the group, which includes the flagship James Street South, the Bar & Grill, Hadskis, The Cookery School and Cast & Crew in the Titanic Quarter, the 12 successful students will combine this on-the-job training with two days’ attendance at the Belfast Met to gain their professional qualifications.

Niall is also spearheading the college’s latest course for 12 students within the school of Hospitality and Tourism Management. Students in the new Front of House Apprenticeship will have the opportunity to spend two days in college with three days of practical across the James Street South Group.

“We are extremely proud of this initiative and it has been empowering to see so many of our former students continue to pursue careers in the local hospitality sector, with many still working across the group,” said Niall.

“There is a severe shortage in the number of skilled professionals in Northern Ireland to fill roles in the new hotels, restaurants and venues opening or planned across the city and province.

“Our Apprentice Scheme provides a solid investment in the future of world-class hospitality here and I would urge any aspiring chefs with a determination to succeed to apply before the September deadline.”

Dr Andrea Cooper, the Met’s course administrator said: “This apprenticeship programme is part of a significant curriculum reform which will shape education and training for the Hospitality industry.

“We are delighted with the success of the professional cookery programme to date, and look forward to welcoming our second cohort of trainee chefs, as well as our first front of house students, in September this year.”