South Texas College has partnered up with local breweries to create apprenticeship program.

With craft beer trending in the Valley, George Rice, the Director Of Operations at 5×5 Brewery in Mission, said there aren’t enough people to fill the jobs and keep up with the demand after trying to find someone to replace one of his employees who got sick.

“Man, it was hard finding someone to replace him with that skill set,” said Rice. “I mean we have home brewers that understand beer, but they didn’t understand the dynamics behind it.”

So, Rice turned to South Texas College (STC) for help.

“Our philosophy is always saying yes to our business partners, our clients [if] they want a specific program that they need for their employees, then we find a way to develop it,” said Dr. Carlos Margo, Associate Dean of Industry Training and Economic Development at STC. “We’ll look for partners, resources, and yes this is the first time we offer something as advanced as this specifically for breweries.”

The partnership creates an apprenticeship program for brewers at 5×5 Brewing, like Cody Mazur.

“I know there’s a whole other field of science behind it that, you know, even everyone here, we’re not completely aware of yet and with that we can definitely improve on,” said Mazur.

STC will give students the opportunity to get an education in fermentation and even help breweries fill jobs.

“Honestly, we’re looking for nerds that aren’t scared to get dirty,” said Rice. “It’s a lot of math, a lot of science, there’s a lot of variables that have to have controls in there.”

And taking what you have learned in the classroom is important because one mistake can hurt the business.

“If you oxidize your beer, it’s fixable. If you-over pitch, it’s fixable unless you get it sour then you’re out of luck,” said Esteban Phillips, Lead Brewer and Production Manager at 5 X 5 Brewery. 

“You can literally mess up $2,000-$3,000 batches of beer,” said Mazur.

But as the demand for craft beer grows, Rice said breweries want to be prepared.

“This is a growing industry down here, it would be good to get in front of it,” said Rice.

Margo said funding for the first year’s tuition is being provided by the Texas Workforce Commission and administered by Workforce Solutions. He also adds that some of the requirements for the program include a college math and science course.