EDUCAT I O N
“It’s quite a tourist attraction. People
come here and they can’t believe it’s a
school,” said Gill.
The teaching winery, brewery and
distillery are large real-world labs that
attract all manner of students, from every
age group and a variety of backgrounds.
While some are just out of high
school, “our average age is quite a bit older,”
Gill said. “We have people doing second
careers, people who want to follow their
passions. We have retired people who have
gone through the programs. It’s really all
over the map. I’m not sure if we knew that
was how it would turn out.”
Students take basic winemaking,
viticulture, business programs, sales and
marketing, vine biology and different
chemistry streams. They learn how to
tie grapes, prune them and thin them.
They delve into different hop varieties,
botanicals and terroir – the study of how
the region’s climate, soil and terrain affect
the taste of wine produced there.
More than 24 students begin the
wine program every September. The beer
stream has a continual intake every term,
with 80 students enrolled at any given
time. The distillery program is a two-term
post-grad course, with 20 students
admitted in September and another 20
While COVID-19 has thrown a wrench
into the college’s programming, health
PACKAGE DESIGN • BRANDING • E-C OMMERCE
protocols are in place and students still
come in to make their products, with the
rest of the program offered online.
Getting a head start
Pandemic or not, the college doesn’t cut
any corners with its programming, says Gill.
“I think this gives you a head start. You
don’t learn everything in school, but here
you learn the exact science and the proper
way of doing things. The industry looks to
us to find people, so it helps you find a job.”
He says school alumni are working at
wineries, breweries and distilleries around
“It’s hard to go to a local winery now
without finding a winemaker from us;
likewise, with breweries. It’s pretty amazing,
to tell you the truth. I’m now seeing people
in the wine program whose parents were
in it. I have a son and daughter-in-law that
graduated from it. People are successful
around the world. It really is satisfying.”
While it was an early leader in
developing a teaching winery, brewery
and distillery, Niagara College is now
continuing its tradition of innovation
within the cannabis industry.
Gill says the school’s Cannabis
Institute, founded in 2019, aims to become
a global leader in cannabis-related
teaching, training and applied research.
It currently offers a course on cannabis
production, and “the next step will be
infused drinks or something of that nature.”
It’s all part of a learning package
designed to ensure a steady pipeline of
qualified employees, which in turn helps to
drive the region’s economy.
Gill is proud of NCLEC’s unique
learning model and demonstrated success.
“In my mind, there is no other campus
like us,” he said. “We have a greenhouse
onsite, so we grow a lot of the vegetables
and things for the culinary program. There
is beekeeping onsite; we sell through the
wine centre. I think it’s important to say
that Niagara College is pretty innovative.
Without them being on the forefront,
we wouldn’t be able to do any of this
Lisa Gordon is a freelance writer who pro-duces
informative and engaging articles
for trade and association magazines in
a variety of industries. Contact her at
Niagara College is the only
post-secondary facility in
Canada – and probably
the world – to boast an
onsite teaching winery,
brewery and distillery.
28 § POURED CANADA § www.poured.ca