Education In The Workplace
I have been a bartender at Jack Brown’s Beer & Burger Joint for almost 2 years now. We have a simple menu: burgers and beer .. lots .. of beer. Primarily focused on craft brews, we keep over 100 different beers in stock on any given day and rotate between 15-20 kegs per week. Our boss recently commissioned a select few of us to take the Cicerone Certification Program. Last week I took and passed the test to become a Certified Beer Server (think wine sommelier but for beer). The test cost $69 to take (up to 2 attempts to pass with at least 75%) and I received a certificate that certifies I have “competent knowledge of beer storage and service issues as well as modest knowledge of currently popular beer styles and culture and basic familiarity with beer tasting and flavors as well as brewing process and ingredients.” This isn’t the first time I’ve had to take courses or tests for a job, but it is certainly the first I’ve had to take in years and for a job in the restaurant industry. Some certifications enable career advancements or allow for other personal gain. When given the option, do you take advantage of such opportunities?
After having taken the test, I don’t feel any more or less qualified to serve beer. I never needed a piece of paper to tell me I’m doing a good job. I took the test for 3 reasons: it was required of me by my employer, I was reimbursed the $69, and it carries the potential that any official document does – it looks good on my resume. With the up and coming rise of the craft beer industry, now is a better time to catch the wave before it becomes overly saturated. Perhaps my biggest qualm about this whole certification process, however, is that it’s beer. I have been to clubs and steakhouses with sommeliers that offer me bottles of wine that cost more than my car, I have been to snobby beer bars in which the bartender assumes I know nothing about beer and are thus better than me, I’ve also been to bars where they think they know everything and talk in such a way that I don’t think they even understand. In my mind, beer should forever be a drink for the masses. One that can be thoroughly enjoyed and caters to a fun social atmosphere and/or relaxation. I respect beer, but I want to make it available and welcoming to everyone.
I look at this certification as a “why not?” It can only benefit me, but if somehow it doesn’t, at the very least it can’t hurt. The test itself only took 30 minutes and is available online. I’ve had to take 2-week courses that was a 30-mile commute for jobs in the past. Academics is often overrated. Education, on the other hand, is like an investment and invaluable resource that provides applicable, hands-on learning. If for nothing else, you will gain experience in your field of work.