The West Coast is an area filled with fertile land perfect for wineries, which is why the winemaking industry has become big business for western farmers. Many community colleges are acknowledging the success of the wine-making industry by offering degree and certification programs for aspiring winemakers. While one Washington college has been duly noted for its contribution to winemaking in the area, it is not the only school to offer the necessary training for employment in this lucrative industry.
According to the Huffington Post, Washington has the second-highest number of wineries than any other state in the nation. It also ranks third in overall wine production. With this distinction, it makes sense that one of the biggest winemaking degrees in the country would also be located at a community college in Washington. However, Walla Walla Community College in Walla Walla, Washington, isn’t the only school to capitalize on the need for trained workers in the wine industry. Other schools in the state, as well as in Oregon, have also provided training programs for local wineries.
The art of winemaking is a complex one that begins with planting the grapes and ends with marketing the finished product. Throughout the experience, training is required for grape growing and winemaking, also referred to as enology. Once the wine is ready, workers in the industry must learn wine tasting and marketing products to the hospitality industry. While the work was often passed down through generations of families, the growth of the wine industry throughout the West Coast has left many wineries in need of skilled workers to handle the various components of the industry.
This video outlines the Center for Enology and Viticulture program which provides students with hands-on experience in winemaking, viticulture practices, and wine sales.
Success in Walla Walla
Twelve years ago, Walla Walla, Washington, was seeing an economic crisis, according to a report at PBS. An area that had once been rich in wheat and other types of crops had seen a decline in the industry with the introduction of free trade agreements and cheap imported produce into the state. Residents of Walla Walla suddenly found themselves out of work, as the food processing industry died a slow and painful death in the state. The town suffered, with stores closing and hundreds of people suddenly desperate for employment.
When a small group of farmers in the area turned their sights on winemaking with some initial success, Walla Walla Community College wasted no time coming on board the idea. The college launched its own winemaking training program, with plenty of hands-on training at the school's own vineyard. Students in the two-year program learn every aspect of winemaking, including grape growing and pressing, and barreling and blending of wine. Wine tasting is also a part of the program, although students must be 21 to take part.
The Growth of the Wine Business
Since the program was launched, wineries in the area have grown from 19 to 174, bringing Walla Walla back to economic health. PBS reports that 80 percent of the students that graduate from the winemaking program at Walla Walla Community College goes straight into jobs in the industry. Students can make anywhere from $25,000 to $55,000 right out of college, in jobs as vineyard managers, cellar workers, and winemakers. One school official told PBS that as many as 25 students from the program now own their own vineyards as well.
The program has been as good for the community college as it has been for the community. According to the report at PBS, Walla Walla Community College has been one of the top 10 finalists for the Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program, which measures student outcome and success, for the past two years in a row. The program has been recognized in national media as well, as one of the more creative and successful methods for training workers and revitalizing a local economy in the country.
Other Schools Offering Winemaking Degrees
The success at Walla Walla Community College has inspired other community colleges up and down the coastline to create similar training programs for their students. While the Walla Walla program is still one of the largest and best known, students don’t have to move to this Washington city to get their hands-on training for a career in the winemaking industry. Other schools offering similar training include:
South Seattle Community College
This school pairs winemaking training with their culinary arts degree program. Students at South Seattle Community College will learn how to make their own wine, market wine, or pair wine with various foods. The school currently offers three different certificate programs but is working toward two-year degree programs that are transferrable to a four-year institution in the area.
This video describes the winemaking program at South Seattle Community College.
This Oregon community college also offers degree programs in both viticulture (wine growing) and enology. According to the Umpqua Community College, there are currently more than 700 vineyards throughout the state of Oregon, making this a training program with a myriad of possible employment opportunities after graduation. Those who graduate from the programs can find work as vineyard or cellar managers, winemakers, viticulturists, or lab technicians.
This is another Oregon school offering training programs in winemaking. The Chemeketa Community College programs include specialization in winemaking, wine marketing, and vineyard management. The program features hands-on training at the Northwest Viticulture Center located at the school’s Eola campus.
This video describes the winemaking program at Chemeketa Community College.
Winemaking has come into its own in the U.S., as the West Coast has seen tremendous growth in this industry in recent years. To answer the call, community colleges in the area are now offering winemaking degrees that prepare students for all aspects of the wine industry. For those who are more apt to critique wine rather than make the drink, there are also community college programs in wine tasting!
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