Conestoga news

January 17, 2012 1:55 PM

New certificate program now open

Conestoga’s new Food Processing Supervisor (FPS) program, the first of its kind in Ontario, is now accepting applications for its inaugural term beginning February 11, 2012.

Designed to provide individuals with the knowledge and skills essential to effectively conduct supervisory activities in a food processing environment, the part-time continuing education program is the only certificate program in the province catering specifically to the industry. It is offered by the Institute of Food Processing Technology (IFPT), located at Conestoga’s new campus in Cambridge.

According to Susan McLachlan, communications officer for IFPT, the demand for such a program has never been higher.

“The food processing industry has identified the need for such a program in different studies conducted in the last 3-5 years,” she said. “Many current middle management positions are filled with employees that were promoted based on performance, but who were not further trained for the specific needs of the positions.  Our program is designed to fill that gap.”

Dave Sheppard is the Director of Human Resources at Ippolito Fruit and Produce, a shipping and processing company which has been operating for 65 years and has locations in Toronto, Burlington, Montreal and California. He said the food processing industry grew by 35 per cent between 1997 and 2005, and is the second largest manufacturing sector in Ontario.

“The food and food processing industry is a $33 billion industry employing over 110,000 directly and at least another 100,000 people in related industries across Ontario,” he said.

Sheppard added that as the industry’s processing and manufacturing facilities continue to grow and evolve, and as food safety regulations continue to change, those in management positions will need to adapt.

“Succession planning is key to any workforce or industry, and is one of the main reasons why the IFPT at Conestoga was started - to help companies like ours with growth and succession planning.”

Mihaela Simion, the FPS program manager, added that as the industry’s trend toward new technology continues to evolve, employees with the most current training and qualifications will become more desirable. 

“With increased technological advancements in the industry, the need for educated staff also increases.”

The program, which will use case studies and practical application of supervisory skills related to the food processing environment, will benefit individuals new to the industry, as well as those with previous experience who are looking to gain a competitive advantage.

Luis Garcia, chair of IFPT, said the program will not only prepare graduates for the challenges they will encounter on a day-to-day basis, but will also give them the skills and experience required to manage an entire team.

“The program will provide them with tools to complement their previous experience and/or education, for growth into senior management positions,” he said. “The industry recognizes a need for enhancing the soft skill base of their supervisors and middle management through formal training to add value to their operation and improve their competitiveness.”

The program consists of ten mandatory courses and can be completed in as few as 16 months. The courses, which were designed around the most current trends in the food processing industry, include everything from Food Safety 101 and Employment Law to Developing Effective Teams and Project Management. All of the program’s instructors have extensive, hands-on managerial experience in the industry, and small class sizes ensure a more interactive and hands-on learning environment.

“Graduates will have been exposed to case studies and real-life examples that will enhance their ability to secure a qualified position in industry,” said Garcia. “The program will provide graduates with a certificate that will enhance their resume when looking for interview opportunities.”

According to Sheppard, companies such as Ippolito are always looking for certified candidates with the specialized training and education offered by Conestoga’s new program.

“Most, if not all, HR professionals in the food industry know of the program that Conestoga has, and can’t wait for graduates to get into the workforce,” he said. “Typically, applicants with formal training in the field they are applying for a career in would have an excellent opportunity for an interview.”

For more information on the program, or to begin the application process, please visit

Story by Ryan Bowman, a first-year student in Conestoga’s Journalism-Print program.