Craft brewing and packaging program fills industry need for skilled workers

NIC brewing program graduates, Jon Goes (left) and Steven Thompson (right), show off some of the specialty brews that students in the program made at breweries around Vancouver Island.

North Island College student Steven Thompson has a leg up on his new career in brewing, thanks to the training he received at NIC.

Thompson is one of 12 graduates from the Winter 2023 program. The graduates, their family and friends and industry representatives gathered at the Native Sons Hall in Courtenay on the long weekend to celebrate the end of the program.

Thompson took the Craft Brewing and Packaging program at NIC, with the hope of moving forward in his career in brewing. Even though he had some experience working at a brewery in the past, he had struggled to gain opportunities to be a brewer. Thompson found that the NIC program offered him the skills and training that he needed to move into a role where he will have more opportunities to be part of brewing.

Thompson was also excited about the opportunity to learn from Adam Chatburn, the instructor of the program, who is well known in the craft brewing industry.

“Adam has been a brewing idol of mine for years. When I heard he was running this program that I was already intrigued by, I was all in," said Thompson. “The program was a great experience. I especially enjoyed every Sunday when we visited a different brewery to brew new beers. As part of the graduation ceremony, we are showcasing these new beers that are now being offered by the partner breweries.” 

The brewing programs at NIC offer practical industry experience through partnerships with breweries all over Vancouver Island, including Loveshack Libations Brewing in Qualicum, Ace Brewing in Courtenay, Dog Mountain Brewing in Port Alberni and Beach Fire Brewing in Campbell River. Dave Paul, brewer and owner of Loveshack Libations, hosted each of the students in the program to brew a batch of beer with him to present at the event.

Jon Goes, one of the head brewers at Arrowsmith Brewing in Parksville was also in attendance. He is also a graduate of the program at NIC.

“The program at NIC allowed me to move up from packaging and move into a head brewing role, running the brew house and cellaring,” said Goes. “I’ve found that in the industry, almost always, staff can be a tough thing to find. A lot of people don’t even know working in the brewing industry can be a viable career.”

As a result of the brewery partnerships in the program, students often find work in the industry immediately after graduation. Almost half of this years’ grads had jobs in the industry before they finished their program, including Thompson.

“The training is a large part of why I was hired in my new role, but I can also see that in the future I’m really going to be better able to be a part of the brewery due to the training I received—I’m able to more quickly catch on to the work due to NIC’s program,” said Thompson.

In May, the BC Government created the StrongerBC future skills grant, which covers up to $3,500 per person for eligible short-term skills training—for which the craft brewing program at NIC is eligible this coming Fall. 

Learn more about NIC's craft brewing program:

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