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Sound training makes the beverage industry fit for the future

The beverage industry has a high demand for well-trained specialists. In view of the shortage of skilled workers, sound and at the same time practical training is becoming the key to the future viability of the beverage industry. Geisenheim University of Applied Sciences trains highly qualified specialists in beverage technology and fruit juice technology.

Header Desktop of Hochschule Geisenheim Research – Education – Practice: At the Geisenheim University of Applied Sciences, students receive a sound education in beverage technology (Picture: HS Geisenheim, Filmagentur Rheingau)

Geisenheim University of Applied Sciences

Lack of skilled workers due to demographic change is not an unknown phenomenon in the beverage industry either. In their "Branchenanalyse Getränkeindustrie - Marktentwicklung und Beschäftigung in der Brauwirtschaft, Erfrischungsgetränke- und Mineralbrunnenindustrie" (Volume 368 of the series Study of the Hans Böckler Foundation) Stefan Stracke and Birte Homann already stated in 2017 that 38 percent of the employees in the industry are 50 years and older. Within the food and beverage industry, the brewing industry even had the highest proportion of employees in the "generation 50+".

In order to compensate for the departure of this generation in the next few years and to ensure the high international level of the sector, attractive training and further education programmes for prospective specialists and managers are needed. These must be equally well-founded and practical as well as innovative and must be able to flexibly integrate different educational backgrounds.

Students at a wine tasting in the lecture hallGeisenheim trains specialists for the beverage industry – in terms of practical relevance, this also includes wine tasting in the lecture hall (Picture: HS Geisenheim)

From education to scientific career

The state university in Geisenheim in the Hessian wine region Rheingau is a good example of this. The proverbial path from trainee to doctorate is seamlessly possible here. At its fruit processing plant, Geisenheim University of Applied Sciences trains specialists for fruit juice technology, who regularly follow up with a Bachelor's degree in beverage technology.

The Master's programme in Beverage Technology, which the University of Applied Sciences Geisenheim offers in cooperation with the Justus Liebig University of Giessen, prepares students from the food and nutrition industry for leading positions in industry or a scientific career. Currently 67 doctoral students out of around 1,750 students prove that Geisenheim University of Applied Sciences is a successful starting point for this.

At the same time, the Geisenheim University of Applied Sciences offers study opportunities to those interested with a professional qualification or interest in an education-integrated model. In addition to people with a master craftsman's or technician's degree, young people with a secondary school leaving certificate and a completed three-year vocational training programme (final grade at least 2.5) can also take up their studies without an entrance examination.

Dual studies in just under four years

Furthermore, the Geisenheim University of Applied Sciences offers dual access to the course in cooperation with companies in the industry.

Interested students complete 15 months of their training before beginning their studies, and make up the missing time during the semester break. In this way, they gain two degrees in just under four years.

Student fills almonds into a millThe Geisenheim University attaches great importance to a very practical education (Picture: HS Geisenheim, Filmagentur Rheingau)

The connection between research and practice

Since the 1960s, training in beverage technology has been an important factor for young academics in Geisenheim in all areas related to beverage production.

A large number of plant managers in production plants, quality assurance managers, innovative idea generators in research and development, and last but not least, competent contacts in the supplier industry have benefited from the very practical training in Geisenheim and are partly responsible for Germany's international standing as an economic factor in the beverage industry.

Today, Geisenheim is the most important training centre for fruit juice and fruit processing and the only university that also and explicitly deals with alkaloid-containing beverages.
A major strength of the training is the close networking with research, including in the fields of analysis and technology. The first university sparkling wine cellar was established in Geisenheim, also thanks to its proximity to the study area of viticulture and oenology.

The university also has a scientific brewery. Under standardised conditions, micro brews can be reproducibly produced and used for scientific purposes.

A 50-litre still purchased in 2019 has replaced the obsolete cap distillery and now enables modern teaching and research in this area as well.

Student in the pilot breweryIn the Beverage Technology Centre at Geisenheim University, students produce beer as well as fruit juice and spirits (Picture: HS Geisenheim, Filmagentur Rheingau)

Beverage Technology Centre

All plants operate under the roof of the university's own "Beverage Technology Centre". In this technical centre, fruit processing into juices, fruit purees or fruit preparations, fruit wines and spirits is just as possible as the production of non-alcoholic soft drinks, lemonades - and of course beer.

For a good five years now, the study area has also benefited from cooperation with the Food Safety study programme; thanks to this connection, coffee roasting on drum roasters and hot-air roasters is also possible in the Beverage Technology Centre. This year, the department also began processing cocoa into chocolate.

Food Safety and Food Logistics

Not only the Food Safety course, which will also be offered at Master's level from the winter semester 2020/21, offers future beverage technologists exciting networking opportunities.
They will also benefit from links to the Food Logistics and Management course and the business and marketing-oriented courses of study at Geisenheim University of Applied Sciences in the wine and beverage sector.

Building a new beverage centre

Since modern beverage technology also belongs in a modern environment, the state of Hesse will start building the new beverage centre on the campus of Geisenheim University of Applied Sciences in autumn 2021. Here, the most modern technical centre for teaching and research in the field of beverage technology will be built on 2,700 m2 of floor space (3,800 m2 total area).

The new building has an approved construction volume of EUR 25.8 million and, with its technical and organisational possibilities, will once again raise education to a higher quality level.

Bottle of apple juice from Geisenheim University of Applied Sciences, in the background a student marks text passages in a textbook with a yellow highlighterGeisenheim, with the federal specialist class for fruit juice technology, is the central training centre for fruit juice technicians (Picture: HS Geisenheim, Filmagentur Rheingau)

Fruit juice technology: close cooperation between university and vocational school

However, the university town of Geisenheim stands for much more than just academic training, as the Rheingau vocational schools located here have been the central training centre for the "Federal Specialist Class for Fruit Juice Technology" for 45 years.

The university and vocational school work closely together to provide comprehensive technical training for the prospective skilled workers from the - sometimes very heterogeneous - training companies.

Because the changes in the world of business have visibly changed this training as well. The increasing merging of fruit juice bottlers and lemonade producers has led to the training of fruit juice technicians being expanded to include the areas of lemonades and mineral water.

Raw materials and premixes are produced in the cellar rooms of the vocational school and comprehensively tested for quality and conformity in the practical training laboratories there. Carbonation and bottling are carried out in cooperation with the Geisenheim University of Applied Sciences at the Beverage Technology Centre.

This very successful development has also not gone unnoticed by the mineral water industry; in the meantime, around 15 percent of the vocational school students in the current first year of training come from well-known mineral springs.

The enormous importance of the world of beverages is also evident here, as the Rheingau-Taunus district is planning an extension to the vocational school site with modern laboratories and a new technical centre.

After all, there is good news for the industry: after a slight dip in recent years, the number of apprentices in beverage production has risen again and, according to the Federal Statistical Office, will exceed 1,300 in 2018.