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WSET partners with The Roots Fund for new scholarship programme to boost diversity in the spirits industry

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Pictured: Roots Fund Supporters Chris Frederick and Damola Timeyin of Bayab Gin

Photo Credit: Courtesy of The Roots Fund

WSET has announced a collaboration with US non-profit The Roots Fund to launch a new scholarship programme aimed at increasing diversity in the spirits industry. This initiative is designed to support education and career opportunities for people from ethnic minority groups.

The Roots Fund has a proven track record of creating positive change in the wine and hospitality sectors. Since its inception in 2020, the organisation has assisted over 200 individuals through its wine scholarship programme, leading to successful careers in wineries, distributors, restaurants, and even new business ventures and media platforms. Building on this success, The Roots Fund is now extending its reach into the spirits industry with the support of WSET.

Each scholarship will be tailored to the goals of the individual scholar, offering comprehensive support that includes education funding, unique internship opportunities, custom programmes like the Rooted in France initiative with the Burgundy School of Business, mental health counselling, mentorship, enrichment trips, and learning materials. The Roots Fund boasts an impressive 82% success rate, with scholars maintaining employment and advancing in their careers within 18 months

Ikimi Dubose-Woodson, CEO of The Roots Fund, emphasised the importance of expanding into the spirits industry: “The decision to expand The Roots Fund’s work into the spirits industry hones back into our overall mission to create economic opportunity for communities of colour in beverages. Spirits brands have always heavily marketed and spoken to our communities, but industry representation reflects just as poorly as the wine world. Those in decision-making positions still make up less than eight per cent of the industry. We plan to change this.”

Rob McCaughey, Head of Business Development – Spirits at WSET, expressed the organisation’s commitment to social impact: “At WSET, we believe passionately that we have a responsibility to create positive social impact through purposeful activity around the world. Through this partnership with The Roots Fund we hope to empower people with inspiring learning experiences. We feel privileged to have this exciting opportunity to support people from ethnic minority groups who are looking to develop their education or career in the spirits industry.”

The scholarship programme, which includes WSET Levels 1 and 2 Awards in Spirits, is valued at approximately $25,000 (£19,950). This comprehensive package covers certification, tutoring support, beverages, and entry into The Roots Fund. Scholarship applications for the first cohort of scholars opened this week and are available on The Roots Fund website.

This collaboration marks a significant step towards creating a more inclusive and diverse spirits industry, providing invaluable opportunities for aspiring professionals from underrepresented communities.