Careers rarely develop the way we plan them. Our career path often takes many twists and turns, with particular events, choices and people influencing our direction.

We asked Fergus O'Connell from BioPharmachem Ireland to give some advice for people considering this job:

Fergus O'Connell

Quality Officer

BioPharmachem Ireland

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Fergus O'Connell
A broad science background is very important. An ability to recognise small inconsistencies is equally important. For example do you recognise small discrepancies between different camera shots of the same scene in films and TV series?

An ability to question everything and think laterally is important. Also the ability to say 'no' (not everyone is comfortable doing this). Working in quality is not about being popular and definitely not about being a tyrant but one needs to be approachable, consistent and have good interpersonal skills.

Not all of your decisions are going to be popular but they need to be based on a sound rationale and you need to be able to support them. One also needs to be acutely aware of the fact that your opinion won't always be right.

One must always be open to being convinced of an alternative argument.

Realists are usually interested in 'things' - such as buildings, mechanics, equipment, tools, electronics etc. Their primary focus is dealing with these - as in building, fixing, operating or designing them. Involvement in these areas leads to high manual skills, or a fine aptitude for practical design - as found in the various forms of engineering.

Realists like to find practical solutions to problems using tools, technology and skilled work. Realists usually prefer to be active in their work environment, often do most of their work alone, and enjoy taking decisive action with a minimum amount of discussion and paperwork.
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What are the different courses run by this department?
AL002 Culinary Arts – To provide learners with the knowledge, skills and competence necessary for a career in the culinary arts sector.  This will be achieved by providing learners with the practical skills and academic knowledge required of modern day professionals working in kitchen environments.

AL004 Bar Supervision – The aim of the programme is to provide learners with professional craft and supervisory skills in Bar Supervision in order to provide a quality and unique customer experience in the Irish Tourism Industry.

AL005 Front Office Management – This two year course will provide the learner with knowledge, skills and competencies necessary for a progressive career in the hospitality and tourism industry, with the specialization in front office management.

AL008 Hotel and Leisure Management – This new degree is the first of its kind in Ireland to offer a qualification in hotel and leisure management.  It will give learners the knowledge, skills and competencies necessary for employment in management and /or support positions within the hotel and leisure sector.

AL009 Hospitality Studies – To give learners the knowledge, skills and competencies necessary for employment in operational positions within the hotel and catering sector, and/or for further academic study in this or related areas.  The scope of the programme covers customer service, operations of hotel and catering resources, enterprises and/or resorts in a modern dynamic business environment.

AL017 Spa Management – The aim of this degree is to give learners the knowledge, skills and competencies necessary for employment in management and/or support positions within the spa health and wellness tourism sector.

AL018 Hospitality Business Management – This degree programme will prepare the learner for a career as a manager in the hotel and catering industry.  The course includes block periods of supervised work experience in the industry.  These placements, which must be completed satisfactorily, are undertaken in Ireland and abroad.

AL027 Business (Sport and Recreation) – The sport, leisure and tourism industry is a very important one to the Irish economy.  This two-year higher certificate will provide the learner with the background necessary for a successful career in a wide range of tourism, leisure, business and sports-related activities.

AL028 Front Office and Tourism Management – This degree will prepare the learner for employment in hotels and other enterprises within the tourism and hospitality industry.

What facilities does the department have to support these courses?
Behind the Bar and restaurant is a series of training kitchens with high-spec equipment.  They offer liberal space for preparation, demonstrations and cooking and one has a large server.  There is also a pastry kitchen, production kitchen, a demonstration theatre, laboratories for teaching front office skills, oenology, accommodation service, IT, languages, a conference room, classrooms and a suite of lecture halls.

What connections does the department have with Industry?
The HTL Department liaises with industry for

  • Placements
  • Jobs – full-time and part-time
  • Guest Lecturers
  • Educational visits
  • Course Advisory Boards
  • Interview panels
  • Specialist training eg. Spa Management in Hodson Bay Hotel and the Sheraton Athlone Hotel
  • Professional Bodies eg IHF, IHI, CMAI, BAI, RAI, VFI, Panel of Chefs
  • Failte Ireland
  • Former graduates
  • AEHT*
  • AIT is used as a centre of excellence for the midland region
  • Work Based Learning
  • Failte Ireland Funded part-time programmes eg. BA in Culinary Arts, NAP and TICP part-time professional cookery and food service qualifications for hospitality staff.
  • Rotary Club Mentoring Service
  • Research

How many students do you accept each year on these courses?
Approx 24 per wholetime course
Approx 16 on part-time courses.

What particular attributes are required by students taking these courses?
Over the duration of the course, learners will develop the following skills:

  • Interpersonal
  • Social
  • Business
  • Management
  • Environmental
  • Innovative
  • Leadership
  • Communications
  • Listening
  • Thinking
  • Reasoning
  • Strategic
  • Service mentality
  • Technological
  • Reflective
  • Change management

Where did last years graduates go?
Graduates choose to work, undertake further study and travel.

Why should students choose your department?
Why choose Hospitality, Tourism and Leisure Studies at AIT?  Extensive periods of work placement are an intrinsic part of our programmes, which gives students critical practical experience highly valued by employers.  Lecturers have extensive industry experience which enriches their teaching.  Graduates from our honours degrees are deemed eligible by the Teaching Council to apply for a Postgraduate Diploma in Education. 

Courses offer a combination of specialized niche skill, as well as generic competences, which affords graduates the maximum flexibility in their careers.  Classes are delivered in a modern state-of-the-art and dedicated hospitality, tourism and leisure studies building.

Over 70% of HTL lecturing staff have post graduate Learning & Teaching qualifications in food product development, hospitality management, tourism management, management in education, business administration, sport & exercise, or learning & teaching.

Why should students choose your College?
AIT offers a broad range of clubs and societies through our indoor and outdoor sports facilities including our new athletics and astro-turf facilities. Class groups are small in AIT, allowing for greater individual attention. Courses have a strong practical element, with many involving industrial or clinical placements. Athlone is cheaper and safer to live in than the bigger cities/towns.

According to a rental report published by, Athlone offers some of the best value student accommodation in Ireland.

Students with disabilities receive extra attention at AIT. Located right in the centre of the country, getting to Athlone couldn’t be easier. The town is very well served with an improving road infrastructure and excellent public transport.

More than 81% of all AIT students completed their course at the institute, 6% higher than the national average. Some 92% of Level 8 students finish their honours degree at the institute.


CAO Course Details 5
AL660 - Culinary Arts
AL661 - Bar Supervision
AL761 - Hotel and Leisure Management
AL760 - Spa Management - Cancelled
AL663 - Business (Sport and Recreation)