Is the hospitality sector the silver bullet for jobs?

Wednesday, 21 March, 2018
Judy Brower -
300 young people across the country, from Upington to Robertson, Durban to Kayamandi and beyond, are undergoing extensive sommelier education and training and are sure to make a difference wherever they are.

With massive unemployment in South Africa, we have to make some radical changes.  We need jobs, and need them desperately and with the hospitality and tourism sector growing, there is a definite need for skilled and enthusiastic staff. So it is very encouraging to see a recent government initiative already in action - training 300 young people in wine service.  The program's mission is to ensure these young people are trained up and also have some work experience, so that they can contribute positively in the hospitality and wine service industry.  Once their 3-year training program is complete they should be able to walk into a wine service position feeling confident about delivering great service.

There are many educational initiatives, like the Distell Interhotel Challenge and the Pinotage Youth Development Academy (PYDA) who all do great work in this field, and the more of these we have, the better our service, the more the tourism sector grows, the more opportunities there are for jobs and the more these effective programs will be supported by the government and private sector alike.

This particular initiative from the Government saw a few of the South African Sommelier Association members put their heads together and come up with a business to support this training requirement, and they founded the Sommeliers Academy.  Jean Vincent Ridon is heading up the project, and he and his colleagues are currently training these youth across the country.

The course takes 3 years and consists of 9 modules (3 per year), and each year the students do 3 months of lectures (one month lectures, 3 months internship, one month lectures, 3 months internship and so on).  The first module has just been completed, and the findings so far as that the students are coming in to the course with a very low level of education. They do have matric, but sadly our public schooling system leaves much to be desired and there is plenty for them to catch up on.

But they are seeing the light, are enthusiastic and seeing the impact of their learning quite quickly.

The Sommeliers Academy's shareholding includes some of our top Sommeliers, Restaurateurs and Wine trainers, viz  Cathy Marston (WSET training | The Wine Centre), Neil Grant (owner of restaurants Burrata, Open Door & Bocca), Debi van Flymen Cape Wine Master and owner DvF Wine Distributors in Jozi ), Higgo Jacobs (Sommelier Consultant & SASA Chairman), and of course  inimitable and energetic Jean Vincent Ridon, founder of the only City Based winery Signal Hill, SAWTC founder, Sommelier extraordinaire (2nd in Best SA Sommelier Competition in 2017), the only certified ASI sommelier in all Africa, and educator of note.
And that's not all - the trainers on the ground include teachers, wine professionals, wine service professionals and more -Elizma Myburgh, Neil Tabraham, Roxan Waldeck, Tayla Kirschner, Jonathan Snashall, Welma Beukes, Tafadzwa Dube and Laurie Smorthwaite.
Graduates will walk away with SASA Wine Steward Level 1, a Junior Sommelier certification endorsed by the ASI (International Sommeliers Association) , which will stand them in good stead to find jobs.

This course is not the only one that the Sommeliers Academy offers - there are a number of other courses which are perfectly placed for wine service staff to do:

  • Wine Ambassador Certificate
  • Wine Service Advanced Certificate
  • Beer Ambassador Certificate
  • SASA WIne Steward Level 1
  • SASA Sommelier Level 2
  • ASI International Sommelier Diploma Level 3
  • Coffee Ambassador Certificate

The sommeliers Academy also prepares students for sommeliers exams, or sommeliers' competitions with specialised masterclasses, including the mentoring of candidates preparing the court of master sommeliers exams.

There is also a new partnership with the CFPPA (Centre de Formation Pour la Promotion Agricole) of Beaune in Burgundy offering a course on the French Campus for a French diploma with education delivered in English (6 weeks)

For any queries do contact the #flyingsommelier Jean Vincent Ridon - or join their Facebook page

Judy Brower

Judy has been running alongside her hubby Kevin Kidson since 1996. She takes photos, attends functions, writes occasionally, sells services, is Mrs HR at the company, cooks yummy lunches from time to time and generally is the glue at

First session graduates in Durban
First session graduates in Durban

JV & Higgo Jacobs in Kayamandi
JV & Higgo Jacobs in Kayamandi

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