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CCC&TI partners with local breweries to tap new program

brewing program photo

A new educational program is brewing at Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute, and will be on tap this fall.

Capitalizing on the recent surge of breweries opening in the region, CCC&TI is working with local brewers in Caldwell and Watauga counties to develop a Craft Brewery program that would provide training, knowledge and practical skills for those interested in the industry. Classes also will be offered for those who are interested in brewing and craft beers as a hobby.

The program will begin with basic brewing classes that will be combined with other technical courses offered at CCC&TI. Those classes could include: forklift operation, ServSafe certification, CDL certification and OSHA certification. Programs such as welding, construction trades, plumbing and various professional certifications will be included as well.

“The purpose is to educate the community about the craft and train people to work in a brewery,” said Ben Willis, Director of Technology Services at CCC&TI. “The scope of the program could reach five to seven counties, so our market for students and job placement has tons of potential.”

According to a recent article in the Raleigh News & Observer, the craft beer industry in North Carolina had a $791 million economic impact in 2012. The industry employs 10,200 full-time workers and generates $300 million in labor income for a $29,315 average wage in North Carolina, the article states.

The growth in the craft brewing industry has brought jobs and investment to the local area as well with several operations opening or expanding in Caldwell, Watauga and neighboring counties in recent years. The goal of the new program is to support this burgeoning industry with workforce development opportunities and provide training for those wanting to enter the industry.

brewing program photo

And CCC&TI has worked with experts in Caldwell and Watauga counties to create the right recipe for a successful program.

“I’m excited as a member of the brew community in western North Carolina to be able to contribute to the program,” said Nathan Kelischek, Brewmaster and Director of Operations at Appalachian Mountain Brewery in Boone. “The diverse brewing knowledge of each brewer in the area will help build a comprehensive backbone to help students leap frog into the brewing industry.”

The program is welcome news for Jason Howard, owner and head brewer at Howard Brewing. Since opening in 2012, Howard has seen his beer sales double each year. When the need to expand inevitably arrives, Howard hopes he can hire workers who are well trained and can immediately contribute to his growing business.

“When having rapid growth, training time becomes critical,” Howard said. “It’s helpful to be able to throw them on the floor. For Caldwell to put a program in place, I think that's going to be huge for job prospects feeding into the breweries.”

One of those potential employers would be Granite Falls Brewing Co., based in Granite Falls. Brewer Bradley Myers is excited about the prospect that a brewing program at a nearby college.

“It’s going to greatly improve beer knowledge in the area so that people realize it’s a viable career,” Myers said, who also sees potential being so close to Asheville. “We’re an hour down the mountain from Beer City, U.S.A. This is an opportunity to learn something new and take pride in the tradition.”

There are more than 100 breweries in North Carolina, and a dozen or more within 50 miles of CCC&TI’s main campus in Hudson, opening up plenty of career opportunities. Myers and Howard both anticipate additional overall growth in the industry.

“Craft brewing has skyrocketed since the early ‘80s when it went from people’s cellars and basements to a viable business,” Myers said. “I don’t see it backing down any time soon.”

In addition to providing employment opportunities, local breweries also will provide resources and lab space for students in CCC&TI’s program.

Craft Brewing 101 classes will begin in September in Caldwell and Watauga counties, and also will be offered in October and November. Caldwell County students will split their time between classes and labs on the CCC&TI campus in Hudson and activities at Howard Brewing in Lenoir and Granite Falls Brewery in Granite Falls. Watauga County students will split their time between classes and labs at the Appalachian Enterprise Center in downtown Boone and Appalachian Mountain Brewery in Boone.

The cost for Craft Brewing 101 is $125 per person and includes a home brewing kit. Additional advanced classes will be offered as the program continues to grow and develop, Willis said.

For more information about CCC&TI Craft Brewing Program, or to register for classes, contact Ben Willis at 828-726-2615.