MTU Cork Campus Cork Prison Lecture Series

Munster Technological University, Cork Prison Service, IASIO and Cork ETB Collaborate on Educational Programme for Prisoners and their Families

 

MTU Cork Campus 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.

The Taster Programme lecture series runs over six weeks and covers a wide range of subjects including culinary studies, leadership in sports, early childhood studies and entrepreneurship. The programme receives very positive feedback from the 60-70 prisoners who take part annually and from staff and visiting lecturers.

Based on this success, MTU Cork Campus Department of Tourism and Hospitality and MTU Cork Campus Access Service partnered with the Irish Prison Service, IASIO 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.

MTU Cork Campus 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 2021.