ForceBrands is proud to partner with the Wine & Spirit Education Trust which provides globally recognized education and qualifications in wines, spirits, and sake, for professionals and enthusiasts.
Job opportunities in the wine and spirit industries are becoming increasingly competitive. Whether you are just starting out in your career, have been working within the sector for some time, or are considering a career change, it is increasingly important to consider professional qualifications.
Wine and spirit qualifications can dramatically improve professional opportunities and personal recognition within the sector. As Eric Hemer, Senior Vice President and Corporate Director of Wine Education at Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits explains, ‘Education is critical to achieving success as a wine and spirits distributor today.’ Given that consumers are more knowledgeable than ever before, Hemer adds that it is therefore vital that his personnel ‘have equivalent or even greater knowledge to meet or exceed our customers’ needs in the most satisfactory fashion.’
What are my qualification options?
There are two tracks to consider when looking for globally-recognized wine and spirit qualifications.
The Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) is undoubtedly the world leader in professional qualifications for the industry. Qualifications are available for wines, spirits, and sake and are widely recognized by employers across the globe. As Maggie Campbell DipWSET, President and Head Distiller of Privateer Rum explains, such qualifications can set a candidate apart: ‘My WSET qualification was that little extra flair I needed to get noticed and taken seriously in the early years of my career. It sent a message that not only did I know my subject but that I had succeeded in a rigorous course and had a passion for learning.’
WSET’s courses start at Level 1, which requires no prior knowledge, and progress up to the Level 4 Diploma in Wines which is an intensive, two-year course. They are designed to develop core skills and competencies that can be applied to evaluate wine styles and quality regardless of region or origin.
WSET qualifications also provide access to a dynamic and far reaching network of industry professionals. There are now more than 10,000 WSET Diploma graduates and WSET runs an active alumni programme which includes on-going learning opportunities, events, and networking opportunities. Such a network provides an excellent space to further knowledge on trends and issues within the market.
For those working within the hospitality industry, the Court of Master of Sommeliers (CMS) is the practical choice as it is the premier examining body for sommeliers worldwide. There are four stages to the CMS: the Introductory Sommelier Certificate, the Certified Sommelier Examination, the Advanced Sommelier Certificate, and lastly the Master Sommelier Diploma (MS) which consists of a theory, tasting and practical examination. The ‘MS’ signals to employers and customers that the highest level of proficiency and knowledge within the hospitality industry has been achieved.
How can I work and study?
Both the CMS and the WSET recognize that many of their students may not be working in 9-5 jobs and have therefore created programs with this in mind. While the CMS is predominately independent study (between one and five days), WSET includes classroom or online instruction and tastings. There are many different study options including evening and weekend courses.
What are the benefits to my career?
The benefit of WSET/CMS qualifications is that they dramatically improve professional opportunities and personal recognition within the industry; the knowledge and confidence gained will provide graduates with the skills to continually improve the service they provide to their customers, driving greater profits. As Campbell explains, a globally recognized qualification can make it much easier to build relationships within the industry: ‘Now when I am looking for new distributors or work relationships, sharing that I have a WSET Diploma helps to open doors because it cuts through the noise of the crowd with the weight that a globally recognized program brings.’ She adds, ‘It gives them reassurance I’m not some amateur off the street and that we speak the same language.’
Not only do employers see the value in hiring candidates with industry qualifications but many also see value in providing wine and spirit education to their existing employees. Peter Marks MW, VP Education Constellation Brands, USA, says he feels ‘extremely fortunate’ to be able to offer WSET programs to his employees. He says these courses provide his employees with what he referred to as ‘the 3Cs’, namely: ‘1) Confidence — to do their job more effectively, 2) Credibility — to speak with authority about our brands and wines, and 3) Culture — to enhance their passion and enjoyment of wine.’
To find out more about WSET’s qualifications and where to study, click here.