Conestoga welcomed delegates from an international media visit to the college’s Cambridge campus on April 30, as part of a Canada-wide education tour focusing on work-integrated learning in Canadian higher education institutions.
Delegates from an international media tour that included trade commissioners and journalists from Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom visit Conestoga's Institute of Food Processing Technology (IFPT) Pilot Plant to learn how the facility provides work-integrated learning opportunities.
Guests, which included trade commissioners and journalists from Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom, heard from students, industry partners and members of the Conestoga community about the benefits work-integrated learning provides and how the college supports a work/study approach to education.
Through their programs, nearly 70 per cent of Conestoga students have access to work-integrated learning experiences which provide relevant hands-on learning in support of students’ education and future careers. This includes field and clinical placements, entrepreneurial or applied research opportunities, and co-operative (co-op) education. At Conestoga, more than 50 programs offer a co-op component, resulting in more than 2,500 co-op work terms annually.
Speaking as an industry partner advocate for co-op, Sylvia Christensen of ATS Automation in Cambridge spoke to the group about her experience hiring and working with co-op students from Conestoga. “When I get a co-op student, they’re ready to produce and they fill a gap,” said Christensen. “From supply chain, to human resources and finance -- I don’t think there is a department in our company that couldn’t take a co-op student, and most do.”
Christensen also explained that one of the benefits of hiring co-op students is being able to leverage not only the experience they gain from the classroom, but also from co-op placements in other companies. Co-op programs at Conestoga could include more than one work term, providing students with an opportunity to gain insight from more than one department or company.
The group also heard from Ngozi Ngadi, an international student from the United Kingdom, about the hands-on experiences provided in Conestoga’s Information Technology Business Analysis - Operations graduate certificate program. “Every assignment and every project counted, no matter how big or small it was,” said Ngadi, “they all helped us learn.”
Through case studies and industry-related projects, Ngadi said applying skills and knowledge to real-life business problems has built her confidence as she gets ready to enter the workforce.
Before departing, guests toured Conestoga’s Institute of Food Processing Technology (IFPT) Pilot Plant and heard how the facility provides work-integrated learning opportunities. Through a community partnership, students in the Operations Leadership in Food Manufacturing graduate certificate program used their coursework to help a local charity, packaging cereal for its community-based children's breakfast programs, and learned how to run a packaging line in the process.
The full-scale, small capacity pilot plant features processing lines for beverages, baked goods and vegetables, as well as a food testing laboratory. The facility is the only one of its kind in Canada and supports one of the largest manufacturing sectors in the province. Training opportunities are provided in a variety of areas including food safety, food processing techniques, packaging and plant supervision.