Skilled workers needed for growing wine industry

From vineyard managers to viticulture technicians, B.C.’s growing wine and grape industry will need more skilled workers.

From vineyard managers to viticulture technicians, B.C.’s growing wine and grape industry will need more skilled workers.

That is why the B.C. Government is funding a new project aimed at helping to ensure the province’s grape and wine industry has the skilled workers it needs in the future.

“It is great that the government is recognizing the wine industry as an economic force within the provincial economy and taking a proactive response in planning for future demand,” said Miranda Halladay, on behalf of the Naramata Bench Winery Association. “Currently much of our membership in the NBWA is driven by owner operators, who thus have not experienced a deficit in accessing skilled workers — we are doing many of these jobs ourselves, or with a pretty lean team of dedicted (+ well rounded) staff. That being said, as our businesses evolve it would be beneficial to have access to funds that would aid in developing the internal skillset through courses or educational opportunities that fit into the seasonal schedule of our operations.”

B.C. is home to approximately 200 wineries and 700 vineyards that produce more than 60 grape varietals.

“Due to great tasting products, innovation and a solid business environment, wine is a $182-million a year business in B.C.,” said Don McRae, minister of agriculture. “A human resource strategy will help ensure producers have the skilled labour they need to continue producing award-winning products and help more British Columbians recognize the career opportunities and rewards our world-class wine industry offers.”

More than 17,400 tonnes of B.C. grapes were harvested in the province’s five wine regions in 2010, second only to Ontario in terms of Canadian production volume.

According to the British Columbia Wine Institute — whose members produce some of B.C.’s finest wines and wine grapes — a steady stream of skilled labour will be needed to guarantee continued success in the highly competitive domestic and international markets.

“Developing a comprehensive human resource strategy is a step toward ensuring that the sector has the skilled employees for its continued growth and success and that potential employees see the exciting career and development opportunities,” said Anny Kadwell, CEO of HortEducation BC.

As part of its Labour Market Partnerships Program, the government is providing HortEducation BC and its wine and grape industry partners with $140,000 to study ways to meet the ever-increasing demand for skilled labour in B.C.’s grape and wine sectors. The goal of the project is the development of a comprehensive human resources strategy for the sector.

It will also identify industry-specific training needs to ensure workers with the right skills are available, and in the future, trained here in B.C. The study is the first of its type in British Columbia to determine future skilled labour needs for the wine and grape sectors.

“These industries play an important part in B.C.’s economy by providing jobs and economic benefits for families and communities and by helping us to serve a growing market for high quality B.C. wines,” said Pat Bell, minister of jobs, tourism and innovation.

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