CIC - Fall 2018

From Field to Fridge

CICan member institutes preparing the next generation of Canada’s food producers and processors.

Human beings will always have the need for food to nourish our bodies and sustain our lives. Careers in food production continue to be plentiful in Canada, and a wide range of college programs exist to train students in the latest processes and technologies.

Programs in food technology, food processing, wine and beer making, meat processing and dairy production are available at colleges and institutes across the country.

Students with a strong background in biology and chemistry may be interested in the Food Science Technology program at Centennial College in the Toronto, Ontario area. This three-year advanced diploma course will prepare grads with the skills and knowledge they will need to preserve, process, package and distribute healthy and nutritious food. Employment is available in many areas upon graduation including food safety, quality assurance, technical sales and food processing. Some food technologists are involved in the development of new kinds of foods and flavours. Annual compensation for a food technologist ranges from $40,000 to $60,000 plus, depending on the specific area of employment.

At Conestoga College’s Cambridge Ontario campus, the Food Processing Technician program is focused on the mechanical and industrial aspects of food manufacturing operations. Students receive instruction and hands-on learning experience with mechanical systems and industrial maintenance, as well as food safety, equipment sanitation and proper health and safety practices. The two-year diploma program will allow graduates to obtain employment in highly skilled positions in food processing operations such as maintenance mechanic or machine operator. Starting wages range from $14-$20 per hour, with a much higher salary expected with experience and certification. Conestoga College reports that approximately 80% of recent grads were employed within six months of completing the program.

The craft brewing industry has exploded in recent years, with breweries spread across the nation. The Brewing and Brewery Operations diploma program at Kwantlen Polytechnic in Langley, BC is the first brewing program in Canada to be recognized by the Master Brewers Association for providing an exemplary standard of brewing education. Students enrolled in this two-year program will study the history of brewing, brewery equipment and technology, packaging and sales, as well as brew house calculations, brewing chemistry, and recipe formulations. Craft brewers can earn anywhere from $30,000 to $60,000 per year but may go on to become brewmasters and command a significantly higher salary. Kwantlen Polytechnic states that the majority of its Brewery and Brewery Operations students receive employment offers prior to graduation.

Niagara College is the home of the Canadian Food and Wine Institute which features an on-site vineyard, hop-yard, garden and greenhouse combined with a Teaching Winery (the only fully-licensed teaching winery in Canada) and Teaching Brewery. Courses in viticulture include the Wine Business Management Graduate Certificate and Winery and Viticulture Technician Diploma Program. The Brewmaster and Brewery Operations Management program allows students to hone their craft in a 1500 square-foot open-concept teaching micro-brewery facility including a large system that can produce up to 1000 litres of beer and a smaller operation where students can brew one keg at a time. 

According to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, remuneration for brewery production workers are among the highest in the food and beverage-processing sector.

A great wine is only as good as the grapes that produce it, so Okanagan College has a Viticulture Technician Diploma program designed to equip students with the ability to plan, develop, plant and grow a quality vineyard. This program places an emphasis on sustainable growing practices in an environment that is constantly changing. Courses are offered in canopy management, pest control, pruning, training vines, sensory evaluation, occupational health and safety, and operating equipment. A co-op term placement gives students the opportunity to put their training into action in a real-world environment.  

Have you ever wondered how milk gets from the farm to your fridge? There’s a lot more to it than just milking a cow. At Lakeland College in Alberta, students run a dairy operation with 280 cows and over 46,000 square feet of learning space including conventional and robotic milking systems. Courses of study include calf management, feed and nutrition, cow comfort, dairy specific software and manure management. Dairy technicians can earn from $40,000 to $60,000 per year.

Olds College also has an on-campus farm where students in the Meat Processing certificate program complete their studies in 15 weeks. From humane slaughter practices to meat cutting, sausage-making and curing, Olds College is one of only two learning institutions in the world that instructs students in the entire process of meat production. Students first complete four core studies including Meat Cutting, Value Added Processing, Food Safety and Sanitation and Meat Industry Communication, then they can specialize in either Livestock Slaughter or Meat Merchandising and Marketing. An entry-level butcher will usually start with a salary of around $25,000 per year. With experience, annual wages can go up to $50,000 and higher.

For students wishing to explore a career in food production, the future is sunny-side-up with help from Canada’s institutes and colleges.

By Sharon Frederick