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Craft producers establish awards for BIPOC students in College beverage programs

A handful of Ontario craft breweries and distilleries have joined forces with Niagara College to establish student awards aimed at increasing diversity in both academic programs and the province’s beverage industry as a whole.

The awards, which include both scholarships and bursaries covering partial and full tuition, have been created specifically for students who are Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) and enrolling in the College’s Brewmaster and Brewery Operations, Artisan Distilling, and Winery and Viticulture Technician programs. 

“At Bench, diversity and inclusivity are fundamental to our culture.”

“Currently, these scholarships provide pathways to students who, at one time, may not have thought about pursuing such a career,” said Gary Torraville, associate dean of Niagara College’s Canadian Food and Wine Institute. “With Niagara College’s strong culture of inclusivity, we are a safe environment for underrepresented students and these awards and programs are pathways to industries that have a place for them as well.”

The businesses establishing student awards include:

  • Bench Brewing in Beamsville. Bench donated $10,000 to offer $2,500 entrance scholarships to four students enrolling in the Brewmaster and Brewery Operations program, starting this fall and including the winter and spring intakes.
  • Reid’s Distillery in Toronto. Reid’s is providing a full tuition scholarship for a student in the Artisan Distilling program, starting this fall, and being offered annually. In addition, Reid’s will provide mentorship to award recipients throughout their studies. Graduates will also have the opportunity to interview for a paid internship with the distillery.
  • Georgian Bay Spirit Co. in Collingwood. This is a bursary worth $5,000 to be awarded  annually, starting in 2021, to BIPOC students, those with disabilities, and students identifying as LGBTQ+ or ethnically diverse. 
  • Left Field Brewery in Toronto. Left Field has established three $1,000 scholarships to be awarded annually, starting in 2021.

“At Bench, diversity and inclusivity are fundamental to our culture,” said Matt Giffen, Bench Brewing owner. “We want to do our part to make the brewing industry more approachable to a diverse audience, particularly showcasing that brewing is a viable career path to a broader range of cultures and communities that are currently underrepresented in our industry. In that spirit, we’re proud to announce our partnership with Niagara College in establishing the Bench Brewing BIPOC Entrance Scholarships.”

Graham Reid of Reid’s Distillery noted the need to create lasting and significant change in Canadian distilling. That’s why he and his family chose to establish a scholarship for BIPOC students at Niagara College. 

“The brand pillars of Reid’s Distillery are authenticity, education, storytelling and community,” he said. “Creating an industry that more accurately reflects the community it serves is the purpose of the Reid’s Distillery Student Scholarships.”

All of the awards come with the chance for recipients to meet with donors during their studies. 

“Our donors want to have a positive impact on a student’s life by supporting them financially,” said Erica Walters, College development officer. “But it’s about more than just writing a cheque; they’ve noticed a diversity gap in their field, and they want to offer a scholarship that encourages students from the BIPOC community to pursue a career in that industry”.