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Wineries Look for Skilled Labor

Europeans have long been known for their love of wine. But only recently has wine captured the heart of North Americans.

According to the experts, there are several reasons for the wine boom in both Canada and the U.S.

Richard Vine is a food science professor at Purdue University in Indiana. He says the wine industry in North America has been cyclical for the last few hundred years. But he adds that it is currently hotter than it's ever been and the trend is only expected to continue.

Simon Cumming is director of marketing for the British Columbia Wine Institute. He says this boom has been triggered by a number of factors. These include increased awareness of potential health benefits, consumer loyalty, increased media attention and baby boomers switching their "beverage of choice" from beer and spirits to wine.

In the U.S., the growth of the wine industry is prominent.

This rapid growth means a greater demand for workers. Of course, different parts of North America are feeling the crunch more. And depending on who you listen to, the seriousness of the situation varies.

Bob Cranston is the founder of the Wine Authority newsletter and website in California. He says there isn't "a glaring short-term shortage of workers." But several thousand skilled vineyard and winery workers will be added to the industry within the next five to 10 years.

However, Vine believes the only shortage facing the wine industry is on the administration and marketing side. "Good young talent is in big demand," he says. He adds that other industries are attracting sales and marketing employees away from the wine industry.

Yet others believe there is, or will be, an employee shortage throughout the wine industry. This means field and cellar workers as well as technical people will be in big demand.

"There is a tremendous demand for skilled labor," says Mark Chandler of the Lodi-Woodbridge Winegrape Commission. He believes the labor component on the planting side is beginning to balance itself out. However, "the ongoing demand for vineyard cultivation and maintenance will provide steady labor demand for a long time," he says.

Others say there's a shortage of skilled people right now. Steve Burns is the executive director of the Washington Wine Commission. "There's an obscene shortage of workers," he says. He points out that the Washington wineries are actively recruiting employees from the Napa Valley in California.

Patrick Wofford is the senior managing partner at Benchmark Consulting in California. He agrees. "The industry has been professionalizing," says Wofford. That means it's paying higher wages than before and is now in need of people with both academic and professional training.

Some of the wine employment websites list jobs requiring a degree and experience. But those without the degree currently have as good a chance of finding employment as those with a degree.

"At the moment, the experience is almost as valuable as the degree," says Peter Godden. He works with the Australian Wine Research Institute. "If the bubble should burst, the story could very well change."

As in the U.S., Godden says in Australia, there is a shortage of skilled tertiary winemakers. And a shortage in experienced cellar and laboratory staff isn't far behind.

"Good staff are worth their weight in gold," says Godden. Graduates are being snapped up right out of school. Although he believes there could well be a worker shortage, he doubts it will become severe.

One reason for this, perhaps, is that more universities and colleges are offering programs in viticulture (grape growing) and oenology (winemaking).

The Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI) provides students with degrees in oenology and viticulture.

Ron Subden is the director of CCOVI. He says most students are co-op students. That means they're getting an education along with much-needed experience.

"We're starting to keep up with [worker] demand," says Linda Franklin. She is the executive director of a wine council. She credits the CCOVI program with helping provide the necessary workers for the market. "Our industry felt it was critical to have this kind of program to expand our market."

And the experts expect the wine boom to continue. "I don't really see a downturn any time soon," says Vine. He expects no changes in the market for at least five to eight years.

"If you have the right foundation, there are multiple opportunities," adds Wofford. "These are the best of times in the wine industry."


Wine Institute
This site provides information on industry statistics, health and wine research and more
This site provides job listings

How Winemaking Works
Learn about the process of making wine
Wine and winery information directly from the leaders in the wine industry

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