I was delighted to attend one of a series of Events hosted by the AOFP (Alliance of Ontario Food Processors) and Conestoga College Institute of Food Processing Technology regarding the launch of their new Institute and of the Process Operator – Food Manufacturing Apprenticeship Program. Bonduelle, Strathroy also addressed those present on "Working with Apprentices" highlighting the opportunities and benefits that come from working together.
The need for a highly skilled workforce has long been identified as key requirement for industry to remain competitive and with the challenges in place, such as an aging population, finding qualified, well trained candidates is an ever growing difficulty. The opportunity to have an educational institute dedicated to focusing on the Food and Beverage Sector in particular may provide opportunities for those in industry to find skilled, qualified labour who through training can be moulded to suit their individual requirements. Conestoga College's new Institute of Food Processing Technology (IFPT) is preparing to launch it's opening in September 2011 and will become the first "industry dedicated" training institution in North America geared to meeting the needs for a highly skilled, responsible and prepared workforce.
An overview on the IFPT and the Food Manufacturing Apprenticeship Program was provided by Luis Garcia, IFPT Chair. Supplementing his presentation was the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU) represented by Scott Ravary who spoke on the "Next Steps for Registering Apprentices". A few of the key items regarding Apprenticeships from Mr. Garcia's discussion follows below together with thoughts from Ineke Haan, HR Manager, Bonduelle, Strathroy, who speaks to the value Apprentices can provide to a company and the opportunities they afford.
Food Process Operator Definition:
The Process Operator - Food Manufacturing Apprenticeship is to train employees with the skills to operate, monitor, adjust and/or maintain food processing units and equipment, in the food and beverage industry.
The typical Apprenticeship Program takes 2-5 years to complete. The Food Process Operator Apprenticeship beginning this year will combine almost 300 hours (10%) of in class training and 4,000 hours (90%) of on-the-job experience. Classes will take place 4-12 weeks of the year depending on the level. The goal of Conestoga College and the Institute is to have highly qualified faculty and staff with hands-on experience in industry, utilizing equipment commonly found in today's work places and encompassing curriculum that meets the needs of industry.
You May Ask: Why Should We Participate in the Process Operator Apprenticeship?
- Provides a template of industry standardized on-the-job training
- Extremely affordable in-school training for registered employees
- A means to demonstrate "due diligence" to your stakeholders and the public
- Training Tax Credits are applicable to these apprenticeships
- Increases the skills and knowledge of your employees
Those representing Food and Beverage Manufacturers and Growers in attendance, were pleased to hear that Level 1 of this Apprenticeship Program would be launching this fall beginning with Food Safety, Food Plant Security, and Environmental Impact issues. Students embarking on this journey will be provided with general knowledge of food safety including food safety hazards, Good Manufacturing Practices, food safety systems, basic knowledge of food plant security and of the impact of food manufacturing on the environment.
- In-class Sessions Begin: October 18th, 2010 (Mondays and Thursdays)
- Online Courses: Winter 2011
In-Class Apprenticeship Curriculum:
Level 1: Food Safety (In Class Training = 87 Hours)
- Food Safety Responsibilities
- Food Safety Hazards
- Controlling Hazards from People
- Controlling Hazards from Plant Operating Practices
- Controlling Hazards from the Plant Environment
- Food Safety Management Systems
- Food Plant Defence
- Environmental Hazards and Controls
Level 2: Electrical; Mechanical; Communication and Computer Skills (In Class Training = 153 hours)
- Electrical - fundamentals of electrical theory/operating principles; PLC and ControLogix Systems
- Mechanical - fundamental skills using tools and equipment to make adjustments to conveyors, conveying systems, pneumatic, hydraulic and mechanical systems; lubrication; work order management systems and documentation requirements
- Communication and Computer Skills - spreadsheet and word processing software; report generation; communicating effectively with others
Level 3: Continuous Quality Improvement (In class Training = 60 hours)
- Lean manufacturing
- Total Preventative Maintenance
- Statistical Process Control
- Six Sigma Concepts
- Equipment Failure Analysis Techniques
- Energy Management Systems and Sustainability
Ineke Haan of the Bonduelle Strathroy Plant addressed those present on the importance of Apprenticeships and having a local resource available to Manufacturers in Industry such as the Technology Centre. Her message was excellently delivered and speaks to the benefits, opportunities and impact that engagement in a Program such as this can bring to an organization.
"Working with Apprentices"
- Ineke Haan, HR Manager, Bonduelle, Strathroy Plant
My name is Ineke Haan and I am the HR Manger for Bonduelle in Strathroy. Just a brief overview of our plant in Strathroy; we are a processor and distributor of frozen vegetables products to the world market. Bonduelle has 3 plants in Ontario, Strathroy, Ingersoll and Tecumseh, 4 plants in Quebec, with a total of 37 vegetable production sites internationally. So if you purchase frozen corn, peas or beans at your grocery store, there is a good chance that you are eating locally grown product processed by Bonduelle. At the Strathroy site we employ approx. 120 full time employees and ramp up during our processing season with another 100 seasonal employees. Investment in training and development of a skilled workforce is key to keeping our business competitive in today's global market.
Over the years, we have been successful in hiring a number of maintenance mechanics seeking their millwright ticket through the Red Seal Trade Apprenticeship Program. Annually, to assist in the seasonal processing of our crops, we also recruit numerous Co-op students in positions such as Quality Assurance, Waste Water Treatment, Field Operations and Engineering. Generally these are a 4 or 8 month Co-op work placement from Fanshawe, Lambton or Ridgetown College or Guelph University. Each of these opportunities provides students with great hands-on training while providing the employers with students who have the interest and desire to grow in their discipline, complemented by their class instruction.
However, there has been a defined gap in training programs for key positions in our food processing plant; such as, Packaging Machine Operators, Processing Technicians and Supervisors. With that, I was very pleased to see the new Apprenticeship Process Operator - Food Manufacturing Program being offered through Conestoga College this Fall. A few years ago, due to an increase in packaged growth in our business, we needed to immediately recruit for two Packaging Machine Operators. We placed an ad seeking a skilled Process Operator for the Packaging Line. In interviewing prospective candidates, we realized that recruiting operators from outside the food industry would require a significant learning curve, as they were not familiar with food safety requirements, HACCP, GMP's, allergens, sanitation responsibilities, food security and understanding the importance of product traceability. We ended up selecting 2 internal candidates, who were very familiar with food processing, and invested time in their development.
If the Process Operator Apprenticeship Program had been in place at that time, a person enrolled or certified in the Program would have been an ideal candidate. The apprentice acquires skills and knowledge on food industry standards and best practices during their in-class training. This effectively translates into job competency with fewer mistakes, less downtime and greater line efficiency. Personally, it provides the apprentice with an opportunity to learn new skills, receive a trade certificate, provide career enhancement opportunities, while earning an income.
I see the employer's investment in training process operator apprentices equally valuable. Employers will be able to develop interested candidates from within, who understand their culture and business. The training will be consistent, provided by quality instructors and apprentices will be trained in food industry approved standards. I was particularly pleased to see the Level Two training component which focuses on fundamental electrical, mechanical and computer skills, as this has been a definite void in our training program. With a combination of technical and practical training, the apprentice will become proficient in their job, allowing them to also `groom' new apprentices. As the apprenticeship program is very cost-effective, you can have a pool of experienced operators to meet future needs; whether through retirement, growth or job vacancies. As an employer it will be important that every effort is made to expose apprentices to as many work experiences as possible. An example may be to have the apprentice sit on the company Food Safety Committee, buddy with a millwright while troubleshooting a mechanical breakdown, etc.
In closing, as a food industry representative, I applaud the Institute of Food Processing Technology for launching a very timely and valuable apprenticeship training program that will be mutually beneficial to both the employer and apprentice.
Special thanks to Ineke for sharing her thoughts and experiences with us!
If this is a Program that you are interested in taking advantage of, there are some great financial incentives available to both the student and the employer. The cost of the Apprenticeship itself is minimal as the Government subsidizes a majority of the apprenticeship in-school training. Please contact your local Apprenticeship Office if you are interested in learning more about this program and how to take advantage of it!
Financial Incentives - Per Apprentice:
- ON Apprenticeship Training Tax Credit (Up to $10,000 per year)
- Registration Fee $40.00
- Approximately $500 for all three levels of schooling (totalling about 300 hours)
Apprenticeship Website Addresses:
Ministry of Education - http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/
Youth Opportunities Ontario - http://www.youthconnect.ca/
MTCU Apprenticeship Offices in Ontario - http://www.findhelp.ca/mtcu/appoff.html
Our thanks to Luis Garcia of Conestoga College, Jane Graham of the AOFP and Ineke Haan of Bonduelle!
All the best!