With just a week of classes left to go, a team of students in Conestoga’s summer Food Processing Operations course recently rolled their first case of cherry lemonade off the production line at the college’s Institute of Food Processing and Technology (IFPT).
The course is a unique hands-on summer program that started May 19 and runs full-time through June 26. Throughout the six-week session students are provided with practical knowledge and experience in food processing methods, equipment adjustment, sanitation and troubleshooting.
The nineteen students in the course are a mix of food science graduates and undergraduates from a number of institutions, including the University of Guelph, McGill University, University of Manitoba, Carleton University and Conestoga College.
Throughout their six weeks’ of study, students are divided into teams and required to complete a research project that involves developing and producing a beverage. Students must complete market research, develop a formula (that considers the colour, flavour and sweetness level of the beverage) and actually bottle and case the product. By the end of the course, students are expected to run 10 cases of their product through the line. Professor Kim Wolf said the ultimate test is having the students drink the beverages they’ve produced.
The summer course is now in its third year and Wolf said the feedback from students continues to be positive. “Our Carleton student has given us great reviews and is eager to speak with her professors in Ottawa. She believes everyone in her university program should attend our summer course.”
When asked about their experience at Conestoga, other students had similar sentiments. All agreed the session offered them a chance to experience the demands of the “real world” because of the hands-on approach to learning - something they don’t think a text book would be able to offer. They also feel they will have an advantage when it comes time to look for employment.
“The benefit to these students is that they’re using equipment you’d find in an actual plant,” said Wolf. “By the end of the six weeks, they will know how to use each piece on the production line. That includes the pasteurizer, washer, labeller, shrink wrapper and case packer. They also develop an understanding of food manufacturing concepts and good manufacturing practices.”
Conestoga’s state-of-the-art IFPT is the first training facility of its kind in North America and Wolf said this is a good time for students to take advantage of the learning opportunities available. She explained that attrition rates in the industry are expected to be at an all-time high over the next three to five years due to retirements.
The IFPT develops a highly skilled workforce by providing education and training programs that meet the needs of the food and beverage manufacturing sector. Training opportunities are provided in a variety of areas including food safety, food processing techniques, packaging and plant supervision. More information about the IFPT and the programs offered are available on the Institute’s website