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The times they are a changin’ and so should the training of the next generation of wine makers. South Africa’s wine training institutions discuss what’s new in wine education. 

Elsenburg: Practice makes perfect 

With its rich history, Elsenburg Agricultural Training Institute accounts for more than 50% of the winemakers in the industry. Relevance and non-complacency are therefore important for the oldest wine College in South Africa.

In the past four years the Faculty of Viticulture and Oenology at Elsenburg Agricultural College has re-defined its mandate to train winemakers and viticulturists to suit industry requirements. Known for their intensely practical programme, life at the Elsenburg cellar increasingly challenges students to show their practical as well as academic aptitude.

Winemaker Lorraine Geldenhuys notes that the smaller the group of students, the more work gets done and the easier it is to monitor their progress. “It is easy to see if one of them is lagging behind. We have set mechanisms in place to make the monitoring of students easier. This also includes various learning techniques,” she says.

Industry involvement throughout the year, especially during harvest, is an exercise she strongly emphasises. “Kanonkop and many other wine estates accommodate the students in their harvesting programmes, enabling them to do punch-downs with their respective teams. This gives them practical exposure and one-on-one interaction with the winemakers,” she continues.

Experts on world wine regions have been roped into the international wine module, where in-depth tastings of wines of the world are done. The brandy module has been handed over to industry experts who know the subject material extremely well, enabling students to learn more from the industry.

Exposure to team-building camps, where communication and life skills are mastered, comes to the fore when students partake in numerous wine shows like the South African Young Wine Show and the Fine Brandy Fusion. Since 2013 all students have found employment after leaving Elsenburg, which means the final product is well accepted in the industry.

The head of the Faculty, Shawn Hendrikse, also highlights the changes and additions to the module framework, which has been brought in line with provincial strategic initiatives: “The department is focusing on agri-processing, a means to add value to raw materials. Numerous short courses have been suggested and will be added to the Faculty. These include beer production and cheesemaking, to name just a few.”

CPUT: Work-integrated learning

A platform is created through the work-integrated learning programme where students fuse theoretical aspects with industry practice.

The Department of Agriculture at Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) has employed teaching methods that accommodate the various learning styles of students. These methods range from verbal and visual to practical learning. A broad foundation in natural sciences, complemented with social and financial studies, is offered at CPUT, an approach that renders their students eminently employable.

The workplace-based learning component has proved to be a recipe for success. Students are placed at an approved farm or expert agricultural company for a ten-month-long programme. This bridges the gap between theory and practice, and helps students understand the application of scientific concepts within the work environment. It also aids skills development through muchneeded industry exposure and work experience.

For students interested in furthering their studies, CPUT is aligning its curriculum to the new Higher Education Qualification Sub-Framework, with their new diploma and full-research master’s degree already approved. The current BTech degree will be replaced by an advanced diploma and a postgraduate diploma in agriculture, the latter linking to the master’s program.

The oenology course planned for the advanced diploma will focus on wine microbiology, sensory assessment, wine chemistry and wood in wine. For the post-graduate diploma the course will include indepth brewing and distilling as well as winemaking.

CPUT creates excellent opportunities for its students by ensuring that the courses offered remain relevant to the industry.

Stellenbosch University: Seedlings on fertile soil

Stellenbosch University’s Department of Viticulture and Oenology’s programmes are being adapted, thanks to student and industry feedback. They now feature earlier exposure to the industry and a greater focus on innovation and business.

“The interaction that we have with students from their first year onwards can be symbolised by a seedling in need of nurturing. As the years progress, the student becomes this strong vine with great potential, which needs to be pruned and nourished in the right way,” says internship liaison officer Anne Alessandri.

As published in the September 2015 issue of WineLand magazine.

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