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Sunday, 02 August 2015 22:00

WMU, KVCC enter first semester of sustainable brewing degree program

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Territorial Brewing Co. in Springfield near Battle Creek produces mostly German-style beers at its 1,400-square-foot brewhouse. The company opened in November 2014 Territorial Brewing Co. in Springfield near Battle Creek produces mostly German-style beers at its 1,400-square-foot brewhouse. The company opened in November 2014 COURTESY PHOTO

With 1,000 microbreweries in the planning stages nationwide and 700 expected to open for business this year, the craft brewing industry has struggled to find skilled workers to bring all that new beer to market.

That need for talent has led Western Michigan University (WMU) and Kalamazoo Valley Community College (KVCC) to create a collaborative degree program in sustainable brewing that will begin its first semester this fall.

“We’re pretty happy with the response we’ve seen,” said Mike Babb, a hops fellow at industry supplier Kalsec Inc. who is consulting with the KVCC program.

So far, the program has attracted significant interest from a wide range of applicants, including first-time college students and people returning to school to pursue a second career in brewing, as well as those currently in the industry, Babb said.

Part of the attraction to the program for students is its flexibility. Students can choose to complete a 30-hour certificate program that covers the operational side of the industry or a more in-depth associate degree program at KVCC. Students looking for more education can pursue a bachelor’s degree in sustainable brewing at WMU that focuses on the science of brewing and includes the operational classes at KVCC.

KVCC currently has 108 students enrolled in its certificate program while WMU has had six students declare a major in sustainable brewing as of May. KVCC also plans to build a training brewery by January 2016 for its students to gain further hands-on experience.

Administrators see the sustainable brewing program as a way to create a skilled and diversified labor pool to draw from, particularly for the growing rank of small-scale breweries that need workers comfortable in all aspects of the brewing process, said Ed Martini, a professor of chemistry at WMU and adviser for the brewing program.

“You can’t be too specialized,” Martini said. “The smaller breweries that are developing a tremendous local following, you need something of a jack of all trades. We’re offering the opportunity to train students very broadly in the art and science of brewing and give them some really hardcore depth in the fundamental science underlying it.”

Read 3103 times Last modified on Sunday, 09 August 2015 09:39
John Wiegand

Staff writer

jwiegand@mibiz.com

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