Craft brewing makes its way to Michigan college campuses

GVL / Courtesy - WGVUNews

GVL / Courtesy – WGVUNews

Celia Harmelink

A new trend has been brewing on college campuses around Michigan, and that trend is craft brewing. 

Craft brewing is a billion-dollar industry that is still on the rise. With more than 220 breweries, Michigan is ranked sixth in the country for having the most brew pubs, according to the Brewers Association. Craft brewing entails small, independent breweries that have a passion for the craft and often have strong ties to the community. As this industry grows, so does the need for skilled individuals, resulting in a huge job market.

Western Michigan University, Michigan State University, Ferris State University and Grand Rapids Community College are just a few examples of colleges in Michigan that offer a craft brewing program.

GRCC is one college in particular that has experienced an outpouring of support from the community and that has had a very successful program since it began in 2015.

Amy Koning, the dean of workforce development at GRCC, said one of the reasons they started the program was because of the need for individuals who understand all of the different steps that are involved with brewing beer, including pairing it with food, knowing how the brewing process works, managing, marketing and knowing how to run the front of the house.

“In terms of our work in workforce development, it’s really our job to have our ear to the ground and to listen to what our community needs are,” Koning said. “We are the community’s college, and it is our responsibility to be responsive to those needs in terms of developing a challenged workforce that will then go out and stay around West Michigan.”

Koning said students enrolled in this program at GRCC can expect to learn all of the facets of craft brewing and come out with industry-recognized certifications and internship experience, making it easy for them to quickly obtain full-time employment.

“That’s what’s really unique about our program,” she said. “We call it kind of the perfect marriage: You get the back of the house knowledge and the front of the house knowledge, as well as several industry-recognized certifications that they’re coming out of our program with.”

Grand Valley State University has yet to get on board with the craft brewing trend. Ellen Schendel, the assistant vice president for academic affairs at GVSU, said the university has yet to really consider creating this program.

“Whatever program it is, whether it’s craft brewing or anything else, whatever programs we offer to students really have to sit with Grand Valley’s mission,” she said.

Schendel said GVSU strives to offer programs that are distinct and special for the students.

“We wouldn’t want to replicate something that another university is doing,” she said. “We would want to make sure we are doing it in the way that suits Grand Valley’s mission and really serves our students in the best way possible. So what that would look like for a craft brewing program, I’m not exactly sure, but those would be the parameters that faculty would be working with.”

So although GVSU hasn’t considered it yet, maybe the growing craft brewing industry will persuade the university to join in on the trend in the future.