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September 18, 2014 1:49 PM

Tours provide an inside look at today's food processing industry

A new initiative launched by the Craig Richardson Institute of Food Processing Technology (IFPT) is increasing public awareness of one of Ontario's largest manufacturing sectors.

Food Tech Tuesday, a monthly tour of the food processing training centre at Conestoga’s Cambridge (Fountain St.) campus, provides opportunities for prospective students and interested members of the general public to experience what goes on in a food and beverage processing plant and learn more about potential careers in the industry.

The full-scale, small capacity pilot plant includes processing lines for baked products, fresh vegetables and beverages. Designed specifically to meet industry’s need for increased competitiveness, it is the only training facility of its kind in Canada.

Food and beverage processing is among the largest manufacturing sectors in the province, employing 125,000 people and generating $39 billion in annual revenue. It is a key component of Ontario’s agri-food industry, transforming the raw materials produced on local farms into the foodstuffs that line the shelves of grocery stores across Canada and around the world.

Attracting qualified workers for this growing industry is essential to its ability to compete in an increasingly global market.

Conestoga delivers a variety of full and part-time programs through IFPT to address the industry’s need for qualified workers.

The Food Processing Technician co-op diploma program prepares students with training in mechanical systems and industrial maintenance as they apply to a food manufacturing operation and provides intensive hands-on mechanical experience with food processing equipment.

The Process Operator - Food Manufacturing apprenticeship certificate program provides students with the theoretical knowledge and practical skills needed for careers in food processing. It covers food safety and manufacturing as well as electrical instrumentation and mechanical techniques, communication and computer skills and continuous quality improvement.

The Food Safety and Quality Assurance - Food Processing graduate certificate program - designed for those who have completed a BSc in food science, technology or engineering - provides a blend of theoretical and hands-on learning that prepares students to develop, implement and monitor food safety and quality assurance systems in the food and beverage manufacturing industry.

Part-time programs designed for those already working in the industry are also available. According to IFPT chair Luis Garcia, these programs provide many advantages for local food manufacturers: “Staff already employed in the industry can take these courses while they’re working, developing valuable skills that they can implement right away on the shop floor.”

The next Food Tech Tuesday tour is September 23 at 6:30 pm at the Cambridge campus (850 Fountain St. S.). There is no cost for participation, and free parking is available. To register, call 519-748-5220 ext. 2499 or email ifpt@conestogac.on.ca.

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