If you need anymore evidence that craft brewing as an industry is here to stay, look no further than Eastfield College's latest move.
When its Journeyman Brewer certificate program gets underway for its fourth term on Sept. 12, class capacity will have nearly doubled from 18 seats to 30. After having to turn away a handful of applicants in the spring, and due to the continued boom in the industry in Dallas-Fort Worth, expanding was really a no-brainer.
"We want to be in sync with the needs of the industry, not only in Dallas-Fort Worth, but throughout the state," says Peter Boettcher, instructor and master brewer. "What the industry needs more than almost anything is qualified people in the workforce."
After one year, though, the reach of the program is already even larger than that. One of last year's certificate recipients got in with Harpoon Brewing in Boston, and Boettcher says he only knows of a couple who were still looking for employment in the craft beer industry.
If Sept. 12 seems like a late start for the fall term, it's because the program is a six-week certificate course, separate from the regular academic calendar. Students get 177 hours of classroom instruction along with practical experience with industry equipment at partner breweries including Community Beer Company, Grapevine Craft Brewery, Lakewood Brewing Company, Martin House Brewing Company, Rahr & Sons Brewing Company and more.
And that means, of course, field trips.
Boettcher, who runs a consulting company for breweries and teaches after a lengthy brewing career that included a stint at MillerCoors' Fort Worth plant, expects the program's high placement rate to continue for the foreseeable future, as Eastfield's program is the only one like it in Texas.
Craft brewing has traditionally been an industry where you get in the door by volunteering. Do enough free manual labor, and you might land an apprenticeship. From there, it's on the individual to learn as much as possible about brewing science and the brewery business in order to claw his or her way into a position that pays something, let alone pays enough to support oneself.
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Boettcher and Eastfield hope their program benefits not only those struggling to get into the field but the breweries that hire them, hopefully for real money and not just free beer.
"We have gotten really good feedback from students and from local breweries," Boettcher says. "Almost every new brewery in the area wants to participate in the program."
The brewing program at Eastfield doesn't stop after the Journeyman program, though. Completion of the initial certificate program (or equivalent program) is a prerequisite for entry into Eastfield's Technical Brewer certificate program, which consists of two more advanced, self-paced classes. Tuition for the Journeyman program is $3,600, and the Technical Brewer program costs $6,000, with financial aid options available.
Registration for the program's fall term is already underway. Eastfield College will have a presence at the Observer's BrewFest on Sept. 10, where interested parties can, among other things, ask questions about the program. But if demand keeps trending in the same direction, there are no promises there will be any space left for the fall.