I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy John Halligan, to the House. I have enormous regard for him. He has a very fundamental understanding of his brief and realises the importance of skills as well as education, and of training and apprenticeships as well as academics. We have not been good at realising that importance throughout the history of this country, to be quite frank about it. I have tabled this matter because I am contacted regularly by people in the hospitality industry who express their frustration about trying to get chefs. Our tourism industry is going exceptionally well. We have seen enormous growth in recent years. It provided an essential cushion as we were emerging out of recession, particularly in my area in County Clare. Young people were able to get jobs in the hospitality, restaurant and tourism industries when they could not get jobs anywhere else because people, thankfully, continued to visit Ireland. Some 650,000 people visited the Cliffs of Moher, which are 7 miles up the road from where I live, in 2013. They had 1.5 million visitors in 2017. I have no doubt that 2018 will see an even greater increase.
With that prosperity comes challenges. Many restaurants, particularly in my area, are finding it enormously difficult to get chefs. I know of one hotel in my area the owner of which was a chef himself. That is how he started out his professional life. He is near enough to retiring but has not retired because he has had to go back in to help out in the kitchen. That is how bad it is. Can we bring back the Council for Education, Recruitment and Training, CERT? CERT was good in its day. If we cannot, can we introduce something like it? There are many people who have cooking skills or a flair for baking and who want to become creative. If they were trained from the ground up through a traditional CERT-type operation, it could help deal with this problem or at least go some way towards doing so. One restaurateur told me that it is now easier to get a brain surgeon in Ireland than to get a chef. That is how challenging it is. Perhaps something could also be done to allow people from abroad to get work permits more easily that they have been able to up to now. I have no doubt that the Minister of State is fully aware of the challenges from speaking to the people he himself deals with in Waterford and other parts of the south east. I am sure this issue is not unique to counties Clare, Kerry and Limerick.