Publicans urged to sign up to Ireland’s first bar manager degree apprenticeship

Kilfinane's Emma Hanley, a first-year Vintners' Federation of Ireland Bar Manager apprentice, says the degree programme has given her a real insight into her chosen career. (Picture: Eamon Ward)

Publicans have been urged to sign up to the first ever apprenticeship to train a new generation of bar managers, launched to tackle the crippling shortage of hospitality staff. The three-year degree course, backed by State and employer funding, has been officially unveiled.

23 year old Kilfinane native Emma Hanley, who is based in Limerick City as a first-year Vintners’ Federation of Ireland Bar Manager Apprentice, 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 the city.

“The Vintners’ Federation of Ireland’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.”

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

VFI Chief Executive, Paul Clancy, says the apprenticeship, available nationwide through Griffith College, 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.


JJ Mulcahy, owner of The Old Quarter in Limerick, 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, said the apprenticeship is a wonderful way to retain and develop staff.

“The work and study elements of the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland 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. This is an industry which can give you a good career, but you have to put the time and effort into learning it.”

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