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As tasting room supervisor and sales co-ordinator for Tantalus Vineyards and a long-time resident of the region, Fipke has witnessed the growth of the industry, and sees more ahead, as the chance blossoms to introduce more Canadians to the wines of British Columbia.
(Recently, the B.C., Quebec and Ontario governments announced they would make interprovincial sales easier by removing trade barriers.)
“Definitely a good thing,” says Fipke. “The easier it is sell our wines to more Canadians, the better it will be for us.”
Fipke is well-poised to be among those in the industry who can benefit, and he believes education for industry professionals will continue to be a critical factor if the Okanagan is to continue growing its reputation – both across Canada and internationally – as a producer of world-class wines.
Having completed three of the wine-industry certificate programs Okanagan College offers: Wine Sales, Viticulture, and Winery Assistant, Fipke is quick to point out the advantage gained by wearing many hats in the industry. The proof of his approach is to be found in the career he has carved for himself at Tantalus. “It definitely set me up for a management role.”
His career at Tantalus is a little like a homecoming for him. While his passion for wine was ignited by his father’s interest and appreciation for wine, it was cemented when he volunteered to help with a harvest at Tantalus years ago. “That gave me a taste for the industry.”
From there, the course was set: education soon became blended with the practical experience offered by the College’s programs.
“The practicums are one of the best things about the programs,” says Fipke. “It’s where you get the hands-on experience and where you get to learn from the experts.”
“We are really focused on answering the skills needs of the industry and addressing the career aspirations of prospective students,” explains Jonathan Rouse, Okanagan College’s Director of Food, Wine and Tourism. “Students like Ryan epitomize the enthusiasm and passion that make the region’s wine industry so vibrant and if we can serve them with the education, training and applicable work-integrated learning opportunities, we will.”
Okanagan College offers a number of certificate and short-term courses linked to the wine industry, from a free online program intended for hospitality industry servers (but of interest to anyone who wants to know more about B.C.’s wines – wineserver.okanagan.bc.ca), to the three certificate programs Fipke took. To find out more visit okanagan.bc.ca/fwt or okanagan.bc.ca/cs