Dyersburg, Tennessee – Dyersburg State Community College (DSCC), along with Crown Winery, Viticulture Enology Science and Technology Alliance (VESTA), Tennessee Farm Winegrowers Alliance (TFWA), and the Northwest Tennessee Workforce Board have partnered in the first Registered Winery Apprenticeship Program in the state of Tennessee to help support the growing demands of the state’s grape and wine industry. An official signing ceremony between Dyersburg State and Crown Winery was held at the Winery Sept. 29. The signing took place on the scenic vineyard grounds with rolling hills of grapevines. Guests were greeted by Crown Winery co-owner Dawn Fallert.

“Through our agriculture program at DSCC, we are promoting the growing of food-quality grapes as a specialty crop in our region,” stated Dr. Karen Bowyer, president of DSCC. “The production of grapes can have a value of $3000 to $5000 per acre. Increasing the number of vineyards can help strengthen the economy of our rural area.”

Those in attendance included representatives from Crown Winery, DSCC, Northwest Tennessee Workforce Board, Tennessee Farm Winegrowers Alliance, VESTA, Tennessee Department of Labor’s Office of Apprenticeship, and the Humboldt Chamber of Commerce. Kaylee and Ben Leach of Jackson, the first two participants in the apprenticeship program, were also on hand at the event.                        

“The wine industry continues to grow across the entire state of Tennessee,” stated Tyra Copas, executive director of the Tennessee Department of Labor’s Office of Apprenticeship. “The Crown Winery and Dyersburg State Community College Apprenticeship Program is a model program for the wine industry, and could be duplicated throughout the state. Apprenticeships are a pathway to sustainable employment for so many in our state, and it is a workforce solution that directly addresses the workforce challenges our employers face every day."

Husband and wife Kaylee and Ben Leach began their apprenticeships in August at Crown Winery. Kaylee is in the one-year Tasting Room Associate Apprenticeship Program and will have 2,000 hours of on-the-job learning to complete with an additional 165 hours of related instruction in the classroom. She is scheduled to complete her classes during the fall 2021 semester. Ben is participating in the two-year Vineyard Foreman Apprenticeship Program and will complete 4,000 hours of on-the-job training with an additional 300 hours of related instruction. His expected classroom completion date is summer 2022.

"The Tennessee Farm Winegrowers Alliance is excited to see the Viticulture and Enology Science and Technology Alliance (VESTA) come to Tennessee,” stated Adam Acampora, executive director of Tennessee Farm Winegrowers Alliance. “They provided the model upon which we launched the first Registered Apprenticeships in Tennessee’s grape and wine industry. As a fledgling industry, we have seen tremendous growth in the number of vineyards and wineries across the state and have been searching for a solution that will provide formal education and on-the-job-training to keep pace with the industry’s expansion. We could not be happier to see the culmination of two years collaboration involving discussions, planning, and administrative work come to fruition when Dyersburg State led the way in adopting the program and Crown Winery put forth our state’s first two candidates, Ben and Kaylee. We hope to see many more Registered Apprenticeships and other Workforce Development programs established throughout the state’s grape and wine industry over the coming years and are very grateful to the support the initiative received from the VESTA program at Missouri State University, Tennessee Department of Labor, Northwest Tennessee Workforce Board, and the Tennessee Board of Regents.” 

Funding for the apprenticeship program was made possible by the Tennessee Department of Labor’s Office of Apprenticeship Grant and the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA); with the Northwest Tennessee Workforce Board administering the grants. These funds are beneficial to both the employer and apprentices to grow professionally without a financial burden.

The Northwest Tennessee Workforce Board offers employers assistance with developing new apprenticeship programs, connecting to qualified jobseekers, and accessing Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act funding and other American Job Center partner funds to support apprenticeships. Funding may include partial wage reimbursements for new apprentices, and other new hires, as well as assistance with covering costs of related-technical instruction for apprentices. More information is available at NWTNJobs.org.
The program was developed thanks in part to the ApprenticeTN statewide initiative and powered by the Tennessee Workforce Development System (TWDS) – a consortium of seven state agencies working together to bolster the number of apprenticeships in Tennessee. The TWDS includes the Department of Labor and Workforce Development, the College System of Tennessee – governed by the Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR), the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC), the Department of Education, the Department of Economic and Community Development, the Department of Human Services and the Department of Correction.

“ApprenticeshipTN continues to partner with both large and small employers to develop Registered Apprenticeship Programs that meet the employer's needs with an overarching goal to grow the number of apprentices in Tennessee,” stated Copas.

For individuals in the community, apprenticeships offer a high-quality career pathway in which they can obtain paid work experience; receive virtual or in-person classroom instruction; obtain a nationally recognized and portable credential; a means to a secured future in high-paying jobs; and complete without obtaining debt. Apprenticeships allow employers to develop and train their future workforce with the skills specific to their organizational needs. Communities benefit from these apprenticeships as it provides the best implementation of a public-private partnership by improving the workforce; supporting local employers; and changing the economic trajectory of households in Tennessee.