Workers in the Covid-19-hit hospitality and tourism industries are being encouraged to use the shut-down of the sector as a time to take up new training courses.
There are fears that many parts of both industries won’t reopen until the summer.
The Department of Higher Education has announced two new skills programmes involving online courses aimed at helping ensure the hospitality industry grows when it eventual reopens.
The courses have been developed by Solas and the Education and Training Boards in consultation with the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF) and Fáilte Ireland.
The programmes are designed to develop team leaders and supervisory management capability.
Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris said the online courses will help people upskill in areas like customer care, financial controls, digital skills and health and safety.
He said the Covid-19 pandemic has “caused havoc” for everybody and “it’s fair to say it’s had an extremely negative impact on the hospitality and tourism sector”.
Mr Harris suggested that it’s an “opportune time” for the sector which is effectively closed, to “plan the future and to prepare for the rebuilding and reopening”.
He said it makes sense to do this now as “people wouldn’t normally have this time in a really, really busy sector” and “an employer couldn’t normally say to their staff member ‘go off there and do that training course’”.
Mr Harris said the courses will help “ensure that when the reopening comes and it will come . . . that this sector can grow again”.
He also said workers in the industry have “fallen on hard times” through no fault of their own and suggested the courses could offer a “sense of purpose and focus” that “things will be alright, that they will get back to work”.
Minister of State for Skills Niall Collins said it's "a really exciting opportunity for people who have temporarily lost their jobs to learn new skills and prepare for the return of their sectors".
Elaina Fitzgerald Kane, president at the IHF said: "Our primary goals are to protect and restore livelihoods in our hotel, guesthouse and broader tourism community across the country.
"These two hospitality training programmes are very relevant and support the development of the leadership and management skillsets required to recover and grow tourism in Ireland sustainably."