Working alongside the National Indigenous Culinary Institute (NICI), the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) has devised a scheme which aims to support indigenous students’ careers in Australian drinks.

The trust is funding a program which will offer the opportunity to earn a WSET qualification to 150 students between 2022 and 2024.

WSET’s Australian Business Development Manager, Sarah Andrew, said: “The Australian drinks and hospitality industry currently offers extremely limited opportunities for those from disadvantaged, Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander backgrounds.”

“There are no Australian WSET educators or sommeliers identifying as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander working in the industry and there isn’t a clear pathway to drive positive change and diversity. We hope that our initiative will empower individuals to use their WSET qualifications as a springboard to achieve rewarding careers within the drinks industry.”

WSET, a charitable trust founded in 1969, is largely regarded as the industry standard for wine and spirits qualifications (beer qualifications launched last year). These qualifications provide pathways to careers in both the on and off-premise. A WSET Diploma (DipWSET) can take up to three years to complete.

In the first year of the program, 30 students enrolled in hospitality courses with NICI will be given the opportunity take a WSET Level 1 Award in Wines. Extra teaching time, a mentorship program and days of work experience will all be afforded to these students to support them through the qualification.

Those who were successful at Level 1 will be encouraged to take WSET Level 2 Award in Wines in the second year, whilst another 30 new students will be invited to take Level 1. The system will continue into year three, with the most promising Level 2 students given the opportunity to take WSET Level 3 and their Educator Training course – which opens up career possibilities as a certified wine educator.

Nathan Lovett, CEO of NICI, said: “Our program started with the goal of developing Australia’s next top chefs, and these qualifications will help us to create Australia’s next top Sommeliers.”

“The NICI is very excited to be opening new employment opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people through the Wine & Spirit Education Trust education programs.”

The WSET Level 1 course will begin in February 2022, and will be taught by Sarah Andrew, a WSET certified educator who holds a DipWSET.

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