Fáilte Ireland has launched an online portal and national database for school transition year (TY) student work placement opportunities in the tourism industry, as part of a strategy to tempt future workers into the sector to alleviate the ongoing chronic staffing crisis that is expected to persist for several years.
The portal, to be officially launched this week by Minister for Tourism Catherine Martin, allows tourism businesses to upload TY placements to tourismcareers.ie, with more than 145 businesses having already advertised close to 600 positions.
Paul Kelly, Fáilte Ireland's chief executive, said businesses must offer "meaningful" work experience for students. The State agency says it has engaged with a network of TY co-ordinators on the work placement scheme, while it has also published guidance for businesses on taking on young students.
Most TY programmes allow for students, who generally would be 15 or 16, to complete two-week work experience blocs during the year. Many blocs for 2022 may have already taken place, Mr Kelly said, but some that were delayed by the pandemic may still go ahead before the summer. Placements for the next school year can also be uploaded.
“It is an ideal way to promote tourism for summer jobs and also as a future career option. It has to be a meaningful placement. You can’t just take a student on for two weeks to make the coffee. Businesses have to commit to a quality placement,” said Mr Kelly.
The crippling labour shortage in the sector that was worsened by the pandemic has forced many tourism and hospitality businesses to recruit for seasonal positions from third-level and, increasingly, second-level education sectors to meet demand in busy periods.
Mr Kelly said there was no single "silver bullet" to address the staff shortage. He said his agency was engaged with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment on the issue of speeding up visa applications for non-European Union applicants for the sector. It also hopes tourism businesses can play a role in the Government's Pathways to Work initiative to drive employment and recruit the long-term unemployed back into the workforce. Fáilte Ireland is also planning a campaign to target EU countries to hire staff, once it receives the results of research on the topic.
Mr Kelly said Fáilte Ireland had also held preliminary discussions with industry groups and other government agencies to see how the hospitality sector could help with the accommodation of Ukrainian refugees fleeing the Russian invasion.
He said the priority was to make sure the refugees were safe and their welfare looked after. However, he added, some of them may eventually want to work in Ireland and Fáilte Ireland has held discussions with some State agencies about whether the tourism sector could employ some of them.