Skilled Trades in Ontario’s Food and Beverage Procession Industry | CareersNow! Mentorship Series – Part II

Part II in the Skilled Trade Series if you would like to see part I then check out it out here

Over the past year CareersNow! has been partnered with FoodGrads to organize virtual career mentorship sessions. Students and new graduates have been able to meet with leading professionals to get great career advice and learn about exciting career pathways in the Food and Beverage industry. Together we have focused on career paths in: 

In our second mentorship session covering the Skilled Trades we talked with invited speakers about being skilled trades professionals and why you should become one in the food and beverage industry with career opportunities like mechanical engineers, maintenance managers, millwrights and production managers.

To make things easier for you here is a summary of all the speakers and what they talked about!

Brittany Henry
Title: Certified Millwright and Electrical Apprentice at FreshStone Brands

How did Brittany get into the food industry?

  • Brittany started in the a deli bakery and when she was 19 got into the automotive industry and did production for about three years but decided to go into the trades. After working in the automotive industry for 10 years she moved to the food industry and has been there for 3 years. What made her switch was that there was an electrical apprenticeship opportunity there. Originally Brittany quit her job because she couldn’t get an apprenticeships. She decided  to do the industrial maintenance mechanic program and that was a year program. She worked part time while doing that.

What does Brittany like about the food industry?

  • The days go by really fast
  • She works with a fabulous group in the maintenance team which are always doing projects to keep the line going.

Why is maintenance important?

  • Maintenance are the ones to keep the line running and if the lines aren’t running than people can’t work.

Is there a lot of career advancement in maintenance?

  • “There is a lot of opportunities for advancement. Specifically the food industry is so stable compared to the automotive industry because everyone has to eat. A lot of these companies are growing and there are a low opportunities to grow with them.”

What advice would give to someone looking to go into maintenance?

  • “Just do it, just get in there. There is only one way to find out if it is something that you like.”

Do you find there are any barriers in terms of your gender for this job?

  • This job can be more physical than others which can be tougher for other people. However, Brittany is not afraid to ask for help if she needs someone to her slug something and they are more than. For the most part there have been good experiences a few negative ones but for the most part pretty good. People are pretty friendly and willing to help if you are like that to them

Is the food industry a good place to work?

  • Brittany has been with this company for little over a year and has found it very supportive. It is humbling when you find an environment like that.

Kevin Gutter
Title: Maintenance and Reliability Manager at Dr. Oekter

What do you do in maintenance?

  • It is a fast paced environment which consists of 25 team members mostly made up of the skilled trade like millwrights, electricians and control technicians. Even some individuals in refrigeration.
  • The main responsibility of maintenance is maintain production equipment and optimize their equipment’s performance like developing maintenance strategies and continuously monitoring their equipment performance. They involve every which is Failure Mode Effective Analysis (FMLA). FMLA gave great feedback and gives people the opportunity to get involved and take ownership.

How did Kevin get into maintenance?

  • For Kevin this started about 30 years ago when he decided to get a skilled trade. It felt natural to him as both his father and grandfather were in. Kevin was always interested in plumbing and pipe fitting. Later in his career he decided to further his education like getting a gas fitter certification. The potential opportunity to relate it to the business side of the trade. There was the obvious side of becoming a business owner and you can become a supervisor or a manager. After completing his apprenticeship he decided to further his education like getting his gas fitter one and two certification, propane fitter certification. He even went back to school for AutoCAD but ultimately fell back into industrial engineering. After doing pharmaceutical he wanted a more sustainable industry which was the food industry. He spent four years with Maple Leaf Foods where is primary focus was to help create a new positive maintenance culture. However, he decided to take a leap and work at Dr. Oekter because it is one of the most advanced factories in the world and it was a pivotal point of the company.

Why do you love what you do?

  • Kevin has never regretted getting into the skilled trades and he is proud to say that he is a skilled trades person

What advice would give to someone looking to get into the skilled trades?

  • Just believe in yourself. In being able to do that you can figure out where you know you can contribute. Have an open mind and don’t be afraid to express yourself. I openly admit I make more mistakes probably than anyone on my team, to be honest with you. I feel it’s okay to do that. I always say, and I probably mentioned that you’re already, we find it, fix it, forget it. Right. So go make that mistake, own up to your mistakes. Just have that open mind and, uh, um, again, not, not being to ever be afraid to get involved.”

Why can you transfer from the pharmaceutical industry to the food industry?

  • Due to the regulations because like the pharmaceutical industry there are high levels of safety with everything that you do. You never want people taking risks. The food industry has to be quite clean. That the food industry also has a high level of standards in terms of regulatory. There are a lot of rules to follow but they are not difficult because these are food products that we are going to feed our families.

Who do you work with in the facility being in maintenance?

  • Maintenance works in parallel with the quality and food safety department, As well, with the production team as they are making a lot of the decisions. Dr. Oekter is a really great organization to have life/work balance.

Dare Doerflex
Licensed Industrial Electrician/ Licensed Millwright / Team Lead at Grupo Bimbo Canada

How did Dare get into maintenance?

  • Dare’s career started when he was working at Honda but eventually there was an economic downturn and he was laid off. At the time he had a friend who was working at Maple Leaf Frozen Bakery at the time. He was able to get him in but he had to prove himself because he didn’t have any licenses. After working there for two years his manage told him that if he can get his millwright license he can get a higher wage. Derek got it and then was able to in 2012 get his electrical apprenticeship.

Why do you enjoy working in the food industry?

  • “It is very stable and there is something new going on every day. There is a little pressure because you have to keep things going but it is a great place to work.
  • It is a stable industry”

Who do you work with in the facility being in maintenance?

  • Dare views the production team as their customers. Maintenance works closely with production and sanitation. Sanitation will call you over if they know something is wrong and you need to be able to listen. Therefore, you have to treat them like your clients

What soft skills do you look for in your maintenance team?

  • Being a good communicator.
  • Ask a lot of questions

All participant questions

What are the transferable skills needed to be a mechanic in the food industry even if you have no experience?

  • Problem-solving- you need to have to be able to think about a problem and figure out how to solve it in a quick manner and correct way.
  • Mathematics,
  • Physics
  • Being able to take things apart and put them back together. This involves having a good memory with things.
  • Have a positive attitude.
  • Once you have the foundation of the trade you can honestly go anywhere and any industry so it really is down to the individual.
  • Communication- every one needs to be on the same page.

If you are interested in checking out more from the Mentorship series then be sure to check out Taste Your Future’s Youtube Channel!

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