Skills shortage leads to call for CERT return

A CALL for one State body to be given responsibility for training staff entering the tourism industry sparked a lively debate at a high-profile tourism forum in Killarney, Co Kerry at the weekend.

But the chief executive of Fáilte Ireland has insisted that his organisation does not have the legislative remit or the resources to do so.

Leading the call, Restaurants Association of Ireland CEO, Adrian Cummins, said there is a need for the reintroduction of the CERT training body which was controversially abolished in 2003.

“The skills shortage is getting progressively worse. Some businesses can’t open on a Tuesday or a Wednesday because they don’t have the staff cover to do so,” he said.

Mr Cummins said there is a crying need for a new apprenticeship programme with one central body to implement it, similar to Teagasc looking after training for all sectors of the farming industry.

“Politicians are hearing it all over the country. They also need to solve the problems with work permits as there were 15,000 approved from 1999 to 2002 and just 2,000 last year,” he said.

Cait Noone of the International Hotel School at GMIT questioned the need to reinstate CERT, however, insisting it doesn’t take four years to train a chef with a two-year culinary arts programme an option.

Dismissing a suggestion that there is an over emphasis on academic programmes, she remarked: “There has been a growth in the number of cafés, bistros, deli, and filling station food stations and they are all taking up people”.

Ms Noone said to attract more staff, the tourism industry needs to address working conditions.

“We know this generation will not behave like previous generations, working 70 or 80 hours a week,” she stressed.

“The reality is we need to demonstrate what an amazing industry it is to work in. We must go out to schools and meet young people who do not have a good impression of the industry. Hospitals went out to the universities and because of that we have university hospitals. Hotels can do likewise to build a model for the future,” the GMIT official stated.

The manager of the Hospitality Education and Training Centre, Bernadette Enright, said parents of students also need to be convinced.

“When we interview candidates for this industry the perception is that it’s sexy and glamourous but, realistically, it’s sweaty, it’s hot and it’s pressure,” she said.

“We might identify a good chef but mammy will come in and say ‘No, my Johnny will not go there’. There are so many choices for young people now and a huge range of courses,” Ms Enright added.

Minister of State for Tourism, Brendan Griffin, while refusing to be drawn directly on whether just one State training body was required, acknowledged that his department needed to engage with the industry to plan for the future.

“My instinct is telling me that one body would be the best way forward,” he admitted.

But Fáilte Ireland boss Paul Kelly insisted that the industry should take more responsibility for training its people rather than relying on the State.

“It isn’t as simple as saying there’s one body and let’s leave it all up to them. We can’t over-promise, We’re not an education body but we’re happy to facilitate and coordinate and provide any help we can,” Mr Kelly stressed.