SCHENECTADY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – The craft beer and distilling industry provides hundreds of local jobs, and now the industry could continue to grow through a new apprenticeship program. The first of its kind initiative in the state hopes to set up the workforce for the future with local students.

“We get to develop a skilled workforce right here, and we get to help to expand and sustain this flourishing industry,” said Department of Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon.

The State Department of Labor and SUNY launched the craft brewer and distiller registered apprenticeship program Tuesday, with local Schenectady brewery, Frog Alley Brewing Co., signing the very first apprentice.

“Sort of setting a pathway for others, so I’m truly honored to be the first one,” said Austin Manhey, the program’s inaugural apprentice.

Manhey, who is a students at SUNY Schenectady, hopes to get the necessary skill sets as he pursues a career in brewing, “You can only learn so much in a classroom and you definitely need that hands-on experience, especially like brewing. You can look at it through a screen, but if you don’t see it and actually do it, it’s just not the same.”

This program also builds upon SUNY Schenectady’s Workforce Development and Community Education, which has allowed the school to work with local breweries and distilleries over the past several years.

“To see it grow and to see one of our own students become the first apprenticeship in the state is just very very exciting,” said Sarah Wilson-Sparrow, the executive director of Workforce Development and Community Education.

It’s an equally exciting opportunity for local breweries and distilleries, which hope to tap into the pipeline of those interested in the career to set the industry up for the future.

“Finding skilled employees is definitely a challenge in the industry statewide. I get calls all the time, people looking to hire people with some experience, and this is a great way to get them in the door for that,” said Rich Michaels, the master brewer at Frog Alley.

The apprenticeship program will provide 3,000 hours and 20 months of hands-on training.