Apprentice Scheme launches as industry leaders warn of skills shortage

Apprentice Scheme launches as industry leaders warn of skills shortage

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.

This scheme of education and training within the James Street South restaurant group, in collaboration with Belfast Met, has provided invaluable 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 Metropolitan College to gain their professional qualifications.

Niall is also spearheading Belfast Met’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.

Niall says the initiative is crucial for ensuring the future success of the industry here.

“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.

“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.”

24 chefs have received world-class training since the Apprenticeship programme began, with many applicants coming from a variety of backgrounds, including zoology, business, and English.

Dr Andrea Cooper, Course Administrator with Belfast’s Metropolitan College, said;


Belfast Met is delighted to be working in partnership with James St South via our Belfast Business School and Centre for Skills & Apprenticeships. This apprenticeship programme is part of a significant curriculum reform which will shape education and training for the Hospitality industry.

“There has never been a better time to embark on a career in this industry – whether back or front of house. Working in partnership ensures that our learners develop the full range of skills required to achieve early career success.

“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 cohort of  front of house students, in September this year.”


Anyone interested in the Apprentice Scheme should submit applications by the 1st of September 2016, with interviews taking place in the days following. For more information go to

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