CIT Access Service has developed links with Cork Prison since 2017. During this time, the Access Service has developed a programme where academic staff volunteer their time to deliver an annual Taster Programme to prisoners and their families through the Dillon’s Cross Project.

Based on this success, CIT’s Department of Tourism and Hospitality and CIT Access Service partnered with the Irish Prison ServiceIASIO and Cork ETB to design and deliver an intensive 8-week course in practical culinary skills to inmates at Cork Prison.

As well as learning practical culinary skills, prisoners are taught complementary skills through a home economics module. To date, two prisoners have completed the course and have been awarded a ‘Practical Cookery Skills’ Special Purpose Award worth 5 ECTS credits. They also earned a Level 2 Primary Food Hygiene Award from the Environmental Health Officers Association, a compulsory award which is required to work full-time in a commercial kitchen and considered a bonus credential by future employers.

CIT Culinary Arts lecturer JJ Healy, who delivers the course in Cork Prison said, “The participant’s interest, attention to detail and finished products were excellent. With a current lack of qualified chefs in the hospitality sector, this collaboration benefits both industry and prisoners greatly, creating a talent pool of motivated employees while enabling ex-prisoners to retrain and enter the workforce”.

Plans had been in place, pre-pandemic, to locate a pop-up restaurant called ‘The Open Door’, on one of the landings in Cork Prison to showcase the culinary skills gained by participants on the course. Attendees were to include industry partners from the hospitality sector who had indicated their interest and willingness to offer participants employment on their release. It is hoped that this event will take place in the future when it is safe to do so.

Discussions are already underway between all partners to run this programme again in early 2021. This access initiative will continue as CIT becomes the Munster Technological University.

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