How Cork Jail, has changed, since people came to me, years ago; well done Governor, now Do not bring back Stutter to Wash the Dishes? Great to see Change?

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Pop-up prison restaurant aiming to train inmates as chefs and waitstaff in bid to solve hospitality staff crisis

 17th May 2022

Aspecial pop-up restaurant, ‘The Open Door’, was launched in Cork Prison in a bid to offer inmates a path back into the workforce as well as to help tackle the chronic 40,000 jobs shortage within Ireland’s strategic hospitality sector.

The restaurant concept involved six prisoners undertaking an eight week training course in special culinary and hospitality skills

Central to the concept was giving prisoners the skills basis needed for employment in the hospitality sector – but also offering them a glimpse of ‘live’ restaurant operations.

It is hoped the pilot programme will be adopted by other Irish prisons.

Cork Prison Governor Peter O’Brien said it was a very exciting initiative.

“This project will enhance the rehabilitative and employment options for all those who work and train here in the years to come,” he said.

The project was undertaken by the Irish Prison Service in co-operation with the Department of Tourism & Hospitality at Munster Technological University (MTU), the Irish Association for the Social Inclusion of Offenders (IASIO) and the Cork Education and Training Board (CETB).

Cork Prison’s ‘Open Door restaurant concept was located in the facility’s education unit.

Trial food service events have been supported by hospitality management students from MTU.

The aim is to encourage inmates nearing release to pursue further training, education and employment opportunities within the community.

As well as supporting them as they seek to reintegrate within their communities, it also offers them a path to future employment

A spin-off benefit of the programme is to help the €6bn Irish tourism and hospitality industry to find solutions to its manpower issues.

Hotels, restaurants, cafes and pubs are facing an estimated 40,000 worker shortage – with skilled hospitality staff having drifted out of the sector during the Covid-19 pandemic.

MTU access officer, Deirdre Creedon, said they were delighted to get involved in such a worthwhile initiative.

“This initiative developed following a successful MTU taster lecture series in the prison which was delivered by volunteer academic staff,” she said.

“There was an interest from the participants to learn more about culinary skills and it was great to be able to design and deliver a special purpose award that allows prisoners an opportunity to avail of learning opportunities and qualifications that make them more employable when released.”

IASIO chief executive Paddy Richardson said it was a win-win programme.

“We fully support this collaborative programme that prepares participants to progress towards further employment, training and education opportunities,” he said.

“It has the potential to be replicated elsewhere and link more clients to employers with real, sustainable jobs in the community,”

CETB director John Fitzgibbon said the ‘Open Door’ concept was precisely the type of programme they want to support.

“Cork ETB are pleased to be involved in this initiative with our many partners as the ‘Open Door’ builds on the foundations laid down in students’ culinary skills studies and creates pathways for learners to further education or employment.”

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