Milestones in wine training

It doesn’t take too much digging to discover a few of the reasons behind the Cape’s exponential growth in wine quality over the last two decades – among them is the non-profit Wine Training South Africa (WTSA) organisation, initiated in sanction-era 1987 by cellar technology students at Elsenburg Agricultural College. Today, WTSA offers accredited (SETA*) training for wine cellar workers, some of whom begin as illiterate or semi-illiterate.

The courses were presented under the auspices of EKOV (Elsenburg Cellar Technology Alumni Association) from 1987 to 2005, when WTSA was founded. Since 2006, WTSA has trained more than 6 000 course participants.

The foundation of WTSA comprises the so-called SKOP courses. SKOP is an Afrikaans acronym for Senior Cellar Worker’s Training Programme, while ‘skop’ can also be directly translated as kick, with the programme kick-starting empowerment for many of its learners.

There are three progressive levels of SKOP, after which candidates can continue with a range of NQF Level 3 (National Qualifications Framework, equivalent of high school Grade 11) winemaking and skills programmes, where learners can select programmes to address specific needs.

Much of WTSA’s growth can be attributed to one person – Emma Burger – who has also been responsible for preparing and presenting much of the organisation’s learning material. Emma is also part of a work team developing a curriculum for an assistant winemaker programme with a NQF Level 4 (Grade 12 or National Senior Certificate) accreditation, which she hopes to launch in 2017. Emma has been the driving force behind WTSA for the last 14 years and until this year was the only permanent staff member.

In recent years Emma has fostered key partnerships with sponsors and donors, which include the Cape Winemakers Guild (CWG) Trust, Cape Wine Auction, VinPro, Winetech, AgriSETA, the Western Cape’s Department of Agriculture and. Their participation has helped drive awareness of the programmes which, in turn, has spurred demand.

Last year the CWG Trust became a partner in WTSA which created the momentum to start the accreditation process. This was completed with the assistance of other donors in the industry to fund the SETA* accreditation process. The CWG also runs a Protégé Programme for aspiring winemakers, while two CWG members have been appointed to the WTSA board.  

“The past 14 years have been the most challenging and most rewarding time of my career. We believe our learners are walking advertisements for the programmes and their enthusiasm is contagious for their colleagues. What a privilege to be part of their growth and empowerment,” said Emma.

Sequels to this post will include a look at some of the outstanding WTSA alumni, including a gardener who went on to become a winemaker and a tea lady who went on to become a WTSA project leader.

(*SETA is South Africa’s Services Sector Training & Education Authority) 

Emma Burger and one of the learners

– Jonathan Snashall