Okanagan College helps local wine industry professionals

Ryan Fipke is touted as success story from the college

From his start picking grapes at Tantalus Vineyard to now owning a vineyard with boutique winery goals of his own, Ryan Fipke is living proof of the value of education and training for B.C.’s wine industry talent.

As tasting room manager and private sales at Tantalus Vineyards, and also co-owner of Vice & Virtue Brewery – one of newest additions to the Okanagan’s booming craft beer scene – Fipke has had many roles over the years, but has witnessed one constant: the importance of learning at every step along the way.

Knowing a career in the wine industry was his passion, Fipke began his formal training a few years back when he enrolled in the three wine certificate programs offered by Okanagan College’s Continuing Studies Department.

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“While I was working full-time, I gained the skills I needed for my career with the viticulture, winery assistant and wine sales certificates,” said Fipke. “And in the process, I also uncovered a ton of really cool family history that I never knew. My grandma used to make her own wine in the 1940s and my paternal grandpa distilled moonshine, and that’s just the start of it. It turns out wine and craft alcohols run in my blood.”

“When I made all of these connections, I couldn’t help but feel like I was meant to be here. I’ve been working very hard for many years; now that I own a vineyard, I’m literally planting vines for my future dream of running a small boutique winery.”

With wine and wine tourism driving economic growth in the Okanagan region, Fipke and the college’s continually growing numbers of alumni in this area are all examples of how education is becoming more and more critical, fueled by advances in technology in grape growing and the science of wine making all the way through to winery sales and marketing.

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“The Okanagan wine industry is a dynamic and growing ecosystem full of aspiring producers, skilled workers and innovators who are producing truly world-class wines,” said Dr. Dennis Silvestrone, director of Continuing Studies and Corporate Training at Okanagan College.

“Our goal is to be ahead of the curve and bring training for the full cycle of winemaking to workers and employers in the Okanagan Shuswap,” said Silvestrone. “And with our alumni going on to become award-winning winemakers and vineyard managers right here in the region, it’s exciting to see that knowledge at work in the community and benefiting our local industry as well as around the world.”

The Viticulture certificate is one of hundreds of Continuing Studies courses and certificates offered by the College at its campuses and learning centres from Revelstoke to the South Okanagan. To find out more about the program or to discover a new career path, check out Okanagan College’s newly released winter brochure at okanagan.bc.ca/csbrochure.

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