As a Michigander, and diehard Midwesterner, it pains me to give credit to any program in the SEC...but I guess exceptions have to be made. Friday, Auburn University trustees considered whether or not the institution should offer a graduate certificate in brewing, emphasizing how to develop, market and distribute higher quality products. The 18-credit program is being considered in direct response to an uptick in Alabama's craft beer industry. If the program is approved, it will be an online-program making its debut in 2014, and one of three such programs in the country.
"[There has been] a huge boom in micro or craft brewing at the state level, and I believe that's about to double over the next 12 to 18 months in terms of commercial operations," said Martin O'Neil, head of Auburn's Department of Nutrition, Dietetics and Hospitality Management.
The craft brewing industry has taken off in Alabama since restrictions were loosened in 2009, which has created a shortage in qualified talent. While craft breweries are all over the place, there are very few educational programs at that support them. Most experienced workers are already employed and aren't typically looking to change breweries.
"It's definitely a challenge," said David Carn, Director of Business Development for Back Forty Beer Co. "Unless you steal somebody from one of your colleague [or] competitor breweries...you're not going to be able to find anybody."
I believe that more programs like this could be a double-edged sword for the craft industry. On one hand, a more educated and business focused workforce could do great things for up-and-coming breweries out there. On the other hand, many in the brewing industry learn on the job and develop a passion for beer that a traditional classroom style education can't replace. Beyond that, workers with four-year degrees and graduate level certificates would probably expect salaries that breweries don't typically pay out. And we all know, once the cost of your payroll goes up, the cost of your product probably will as well.
What do you think? Should home brewers and those who start in the brewery continue to rule the industry or should more traditionally educated folks start jumping in the ring?