Hop Forward Career Fair Seeks to Diversify Massachusetts’ Brewing Industry

About 150 job seekers turned out Tuesday evening for the first-ever Hop Forward Career Fair, a networking event held at Mass Bay Brewing’s Harpoon Brewery in Boston’s Seaport District, with the goal of attracting candidates from under-represented communities into the craft beer industry.

“We know that diverse talent is what keeps a company moving forward, but we also know that as an industry, we could do more to ensure that the people working within our four walls represent the communities we serve,” Mass Bay CEO Dan Kenary said in a press release announcing the event.

Mass Bay was among six recipients of the Brewers Association’s (BA) “Diversity and Inclusion Events Grant” program. The not-for-profit trade group’s diversity committee awarded $20,000 via six grants this year. The grants supported Fresh Fest, a festival featuring beers from black-owned breweries in Pittsburgh; Beer With(out) Beards, a women-centric event series in Brooklyn; a career fair at Cleveland’s Great Lakes Brewing; the HeART and Soul Brew Fest, an urban art and soul food beer festival in Richmond, Virginia; and Suave Cerveza Fest, a Latino-centric beer festival in Denver, Colorado. The BA is currently accepting applications for 2020 diversity and inclusion event grants through December 31.

Mass Bay Brewing, which makes the Harpoon, UFO Clown Shoes, Arctic Summer hard seltzer and City Roots cider brands, hosted the job fair in conjunction with the City of Boston Diversity Office, the Massachusetts Brewers Guild, and Career Collaborative, a Boston-based organization that offers career training and networking opportunities to unemployed or under-employed adults.

Eight other Massachusetts breweries — Boston Beer Company, Dorchester Brewing, Lord Hobo, Jack’s Abby, Night Shift, Trillium, Turtle Swamp, Wormtown Brewery — took part in the event.

Career Collaborative advisor Doreen Bennett kicked off the job fair by telling the crowd that craft beer hadn’t been top-of-mind for many job seekers in the communities that her organization serves.

“No one knew that this industry had these kinds of employment opportunities,” she said.

Kenary told Brewbound during the event that Mass Bay Brewing’s workforce is becoming “more diverse,” but he admitted that “it’s not where we’d like it to be.”

“That’s on us,” he said.

Kenary added that the company’s candidate pool for open positions in the past has been mostly made up of white men.

“Our situation was we weren’t getting the applications,” he said, adding that creating a move diverse workforce was the impetus seeking the grant and hosting the career fair. “We said, ‘Let’s get after this and not wait for it to happen.’”

Lord Hobo marketing manager Rob Hughes echoed Kenary, conceding that the majority of the respondents to the Woburn-based craft brewery’s job posts are white men between the ages of 24 and 34. He told Brewbound that taking part in the job fair was “an easy decision,” and the company was seeking candidates to fill open sales and marketing roles.

“Expanding the diversity that’s in the craft beer industry is important to the craft beer industry at-large and important to Lord Hobo,” he said.

Dr. J. Nikol Jackson-Beckham, the BA’s diversity ambassador for the BA and executive director of Craft x EDU, an organization that seeks to promote diversity in beer through education and professional development, told Brewbound that there “are no simple ‘one-size-fits-all’ solutions to making the beer industry more diverse. She noted that the answer to solving the problem of the lack of diversity in the craft beer industry is complicated.

“These kinds of efforts need to be sensitive to a brewery’s community and context and need to be aligned with overall organizational goals and developed with available capacity and resources in mind,” she said. “A regional production brewery in the Pacific Northwest and a local taproom in the American south are more than likely going to take very different approaches to pursuing workforce diversity.”

The BA’s biennial Brewery Operations Benchmarking Survey for 2018 found that brewery employees were overwhelmingly white. 2018 marked the first time the BA surveyed its members on gender, race and ethnicity of their respective workforces. The survey found that 89% of brewers were white, while 88% of brewery owners were white. The most diverse employee groups were non-managerial production employees, who were 24% non-white; non-brewing production employees, who were 21% non-white; and non-managerial service employees, who were 20% non-white.

Men also outnumbered women at almost every level of brewery employment except for non-managerial service staff; 54% of servers were women.

During Tuesday’s career fair at Harpoon, Yurie Duarte, who recently moved to East Boston from New York, said she attended the event in hopes of networking and ultimately obtaining a marketing job in the beer industry.

“Beer is my drink of choice,” said Duarte, who has worked for a decade in the non-alcoholic beverage space. “I’ve always wanted to work for a beer company.”

Meanwhile, Jean Magloire, who moved to Boston from Haiti last year, said he hoped his history as a supervisor at a Coca-Cola facility would transfer to the beer industry.

Massachusetts Brewers Guild executive director Katie Stinchon said the organization, which represents the state’s 185 craft breweries, plans to host similar events in other regions of the state. Stinchon added that Tuesday’s career fair was the “most tangible, actionable thing the Massachusetts brewing community has done to diversify” thus far.

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