A case study investigation of the learning needs of the Niagara grape and wine community
Ker, Kevin Warren
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The Niagara Grape and Wine Community (NGWC) is an industry that has undergone rapid change and expansion as a result of changes in governmental regulations and consumer preferences. As a result of these changes, the demands of the wine industry workforce have changed to reflect the need to implement new strategies and practices to remain viable and competitive. The influx of people into the community with little or no prior practical experience in grape growing (viticulture) or winemaking (oenology) has created a need for additional training and learning opportunities to meet workforce needs. This case study investigated the learning needs of the members of this community and how these needs are currently being met. The barriers to, and the opportunities for, members acquiring new knowledge and developing skills were also explored. Participants were those involved in all levels of the industry and sectors (viticulture, processing, and retail), and their views on needs and suggestions for programs of study were collected. Through cross analyses of sectors, areas of common and unique interest were identified as well as formats for delivery. A common fundamental component was identified by all sectors - any program must have a significant applied component or demonstration of proficiency and should utilize members as peer instructors, mentors, and collaborators to generate a larger shared collective of knowledge. Through the review of learning organizations, learning communities, communities of practices, and learning networks, the principles for the development of a Grape and Wine Learning Network to meet the learning needs of the NGWC outside of formal institutional or academic programs were developed. The roles and actions of members to make such a network successful are suggested.
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