Home of Guinness gives new chance to refugees and asylum-seekers in Ireland

The Learning For Life Programme trains refugees and asylum-seekers to work in Ireland's hospitality industry


Belinda Kassab pulls a pint of Ireland's famous stout in the Guinness Storehouse, Dublin  © UNHCR


Sandra Mlauzi never thought there was much to pouring a pint of Guinness. “I had no idea that after the pouring you have to let it settle first, before pouring again. It is like a tradition.”

Sandra is one of a group of 20 refugees and asylum-seekers taking part in the ‘Learning for life’ programme, a 12-week training scheme designed by Guinness’s parent company Diageo to prepare students for the hospitality industry.

Eight weeks are spent in a training facility, where students are equipped with the training and skills they’ll need to pull pints, work cash registers and do interviews for jobs in the future. This is followed by four weeks placement working in hotels, retail or in Sandra’s case, the Guinness Storehouse, the 116-year-old building that serves as the multi-storied, interactive visitor centre that tells the story of Ireland’s favourite–drink.

With over 1.6 million visitors in 2016, the Storehouse is constantly recruiting staff, which is why Diageo began reaching out to communities often forgotten about by traditional recruiters. After first taking on people from the local area, In January 2018 the Learning For Life Programme began training refugees and asylum-seekers, who they believed could benefit from the City and Guilds accredited course.

“Refugees are coming to Ireland out of necessity and after escaping harsh regimes, where their religion, culture, gender or other factors can lead to extreme hardship and even death in some cases” says Liam Reid, Corporate Director for Diageo. “We’ve identified them as a new population in Ireland which had huge need to integrate, work and settle here despite barriers such as language, education, cultural change and other factors”.

Diageo’s decision to support asylum-seekers and refugees comes as Ireland is set to introduce the right to work for asylum-seekers. In June, Ireland will opt-into the Receptions Conditions Directive, a piece of EU law that will bring Ireland in to line with the rest of the EU in giving asylum-seekers the right to work after a certain time periods waiting for decisions on their applications. Asylum-seekers currently wait 19 months after their application to get an interview under standards procedures in Ireland, with decisions taking longer, meaning long periods not being able to work.

The Learning For Life Programme resolves some of the consequences of these long delays, giving practical experience to people who have spent long periods out of the work force.

“Diageo works in many countries throughout the world and with people from many backgrounds. It is core to our ethos that we help people, of all races, beliefs and backgrounds, to make the best of themselves” says Reid.

It’s a calling the students have taken up with enthusiasm.

“We want to work!” says Sandra: “We don’t just want to receive. We also want to give back.”