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FoodGrads Podcast Ep 41: [Special] Highlighting CareersNow! Mentorship Sessions

On episode 41 of the FoodGrads Podcast we have something a little different lined up. For the past year FoodGrads has paired up with CareersNow! an initiative created by Food and Beverage Ontario looking to bring awareness to assist people in exploring the variety of careers in Ontario’s food and beverage processing industry. Over the past year with CareersNow we have hosted 12 mentorship sessions where students or new graduates (well really anyone) could attend virtual career advice sessions with leading professionals to learn more about exciting career pathways in the industries and ask questions. Together we have covered career pathways from everything from sales & marketing to supply chain to product development.

Because there has been so many great career stories put out there we wanted to bring you some highlights from these mentorship sessions. So on the docket today are four professionals from all areas of the industry in order featured on the episode are Alvin Alexander Maintenance Mechanic at FGF brands, Morolayo Mould Health and Safety Inspector at Kerry, Gireesh Raina Food Inspector at the Ontario Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Rural Affairs and Swarna Ariyakumar Senior Packaging Engineer. In this episode you will hear highlights from their career stories and some unique advice or stories from each guest.

Show Notes

Name:  Alvin Alexander

Title: Maintenance Mechanic

Where he works: FGF Brands

Mentorship Session: Skilled Trades

[00:03:25] Alvin talks about his career journey

  • Alvin comes from Chandigarh, India. He finished his degree in 2010, which looks like a very long time ago. Like me like many other mechanical engineers in India, the only industry that we were exposed to in their college was the automobile manufacturing industry. There was little exposure to the pharmaceutical industry but never food.
  • Alvin I landed the internship in my first job at MicroTurners, which is in the us, which is one of the largest OEM parts manufactured for Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki. He was there for almost six months and then he finished his internship and was was hired times as a production engineer by the same company. And his main work was to collaborate with the production teams quality, assurance teams, R&D department and maintenance department . He was at
  • In August of 2013 he joined Kone Elevators as a technical support engineer. It is one of the largest brands when it comes to elevators and escalators auto walks in globally. His job at Kone Elevators involved working with teams of technicians and fixing complex technical problems.
  • At this point Alvin wanted to move to Canada so in June of 2016, he packed up his bags and moved to Canada. Initially he struggled a lot to find a good job and even took bridging courses that excess employment.
  • He even went to college to make his resume more attractive to Canadian employers. He landed a job at Ingram Micro as an order picker and through and internal posting he got the opportunity to work as a product tester for Amazon returns. He was hired there on a contract basis. So after my contract finished, he started looking for other opportunities and Alvin came across FGF from a friend who told him to get into the food manufacturing business.
  • He wasn’t 100% sure if he would get that opportunity but in June of 2017 he joined FGF Brands and have been there ever since.
  • FGF is an industrial bakery based here in Markham, Ontario with manufacturing plants all over Canada, as well as United States. They are one of the largest baked goods in North America. They like to say they are a tech company that likes to bake.

[00:09:40] What is a skilled trade and what is it not?

  • It is a career that is hands-on but required specialty knowledge. The knowledge could be about equipment, the manufacturing equipment or the structure of the building.

[00:10:25] What are the benefits of working in a skilled trade environment?

  • In the skilled trades the jobs are in demand all the time. In any industry the first thing that they need to do is install equipment. This falls under the skilled trades.
  • There are a lot of opportunities for growth and career progression. For example in Alvin’s case he started as an entry level mechanic at FGF.

[00:11:24] What is an entry-level mechanic?

  • More like an apprenticeship. Alvin had a bit of experience from India but he had never worked in a food manufacturing plant. During his apprenticeship he was shadowing more skilled individuals and learning from their experiences. His day to day work was fixing the machines. After a year he was promoted to level one mechanic which gave him a chance to work on his own and more exposure to the machinery.
  • Alvin is now a level 2 mechanic and the progress has been study. The progress is always steady.

[00:13:27] How do you get into the skilled trades?

  • There are three ways to get into the skilled trades:
  1. Go to school like a college and get a diploma or a degree in the skilled trades.
  2. Find an employer that gets you into the apprentice program from the Skilled Trades colleges.
  3. If you have experience like worked a certain amount of time you can challenge the college. They will recognize the hours and give you the certification.

Alvin personally used the third route and has worked FDF for almost four years now and almost has 8000 hours. So the journey has led him to having the experience and having the number of hours that are required for the equivalent. So after completing 8,000 hours, what you can do is you can submit an application to the Skilled Trade college and they will ask for the employers approval. They will apply. They will ask for what kind of job you do, the job duties that you do. And they will double check with your employer. That is the same person working with you. Does he have the knowledge that he’s claiming he has? And then they will give you the equivalent, the equivalent degree. In Alvin’s case, it will be a millwright license. So this is the this is the course Alvin is taking and hopefully will be fully license soon.

The other thing you can do is if you’re working with an employer that knows that you don’t have a license, you can always keep them in the loop and they can apply for a license for you as well.

[00:16:01] How is this industry so fruitful?

  • Many of us, we don’t actually consider like C coming straight up out of college. Alvin never thought about food manufacturing as a good starting point. But Alvin noticed that the food manufacturing industry even under the burden of the pandemic was the only industry that was left standing. Alvin saw almost 80 or 80 to 90% people at one time were staying at home. But during the pandemic Alvin was going to work every day because people had to eat, they were staying home, they had to eat. So this pandemic has taught us that being part of the food manufacturing sector, food manufacturing industry, it does a very fruitful thing, even like for new graduates.
  • FGF brands has internships and a co-op program that that you can take when your in school. come into effect even when you’re studying. So come join FGF.

[00:18:51]

Name:  Morolayo Mould

Title: Health Safety Environment Supervisor

Where she works: Kerry

Mentorship Session: Sanitation/ Health, Safety & Environmental

[00:19:26] Morolayo talks about how she got to where she is today

Morolayo has a background in food technology from Nigeria. About five years ago she moved to Canada with her family and started work briefly with Maple Leaf Foods and then worked for a short with Coca-Cola. After that Morolayo started working at Chudleigh’s Ltd as a QA Specialist and it was during that time she realized that she had a passion for health and safety. Realizing she didn’t have the credentials she started taking courses at the University of Victoria on the subject. Morolayo also joined the health and safety committee at Chudleigh’s which eventually led her to becoming their Health and Safety coordinator when the role opened up. Morolayo currently works as a Health Safety Environment Supervisor at Kerry Foods.

[00:25:16] What does a typical day look like as a Health Safety Environment Supervisor at Kerry?

For Morolayo a typical day it depends on the day. Some days are easy but other days are crazy like when there is an unplanned event such as an injury. However, Morolayo’s normal day begins by looking at emails or completing workplace reports.  At the beginning of each shift she goes to the facility staff meeting where she give’s a safety tip of the day and talks about any incident’s from the previous day or training updates. Afterwards, Morolayo then goes to the production plant to check on staff and makes sure that everyone is working safe.  

Name: Gireesh Raina

Title: Food Safety Inspector

Where he works:  The Ontario Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA)

Mentorship Session: Auditing/Food Safety

[00:29:02] Gireesh Raina talks about his career story

Currently he works as a food safety inspector with the The Ontario Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) and covers the entire province. He graduated in 1996 with a dairy science degree from India. After his studies he got a co-op opportunity from Nestle at their infant cereal producing facility which turned into a full-time job as a shift supervisor and a lead team head for HACCP. After working there for six years he gained the basic building blocks of knowledge that he still uses today. He learned about designing food safety and quality assurance systems.

Afterwards, he worked at the Export Inspection Agency where his main job was to audit food facilities and he was trained under European Unio Regulations there he got certified as an auditor and got his first food safety certification like ISO. After that, he migrated to Canada and did some consultancy work developing some programs and policies for companies getting their HACCP, GFS and BRC certifications. Afterwards, he went to NewlyWedSpices and worked as a food technician in the quality assurance department.

Than Giresesh started working at Saputo Canada’s biggest dairy processor. There he supported and was an implementer in helping them get their BRC certification in the facility. He then shifted his focus to technical services. After wanting a career change he

[00:32:52] And I joined there as it has supported. I was in implementer in getting the BRC certification in the facility. And after that I had three more facilities of facilities getting. And then I shifted by focus to technical services. So we had, they had a technical services department. So I got shifted in technical services.

[00:33:21] What do you do as a food safety inspector at The Ontario Ministry of Food?

Gireesh’s job is to help individuals if they want to start from scratch and start a dairy processing facility. He helps them with all the policies and regulations when selecting the sites and selecting the equipment. Once they are licensed he also performs an inspection and audit to get their license. Once they get the license he will perform two annual inspections and sampling to allow them to keep that license. He also does food plant inspections, like on-farm inspections for food processors maple syrup, honey.

On top of that if someone is having technical issues he helps if a company is involved in recall investigations. He like to mentor individuals in facilities and QA technicians. Gireesh says, “you never know who’s going to help you. What that work is you are going to use. So I have seen, I have when I mentor, when I’ve met the people, I’ve worked with some people. So if there is an opening in any facility where I am inspecting or I’m auditing. So I always say that, why don’t you try that? So that’s one thing I really enjoy with this job is seeing people grow. I have seen people growing from a lab technician to a Director of QA. That’s one of the things which I really like in my job, as I said The pole, the passion, which comes for the food safety is driving me and every day is different. In my job, this always keeps me, it keeps me very motivated and meeting different people fires, solving their issues. That also keeps me motivated. One of when I was doing my audit work, what I, what helps me? What have I’ve experienced five years right now in the food industry.”

[00:38:18] What advice would give to students looking to go into food safety?

If you want to be different or want to advance in your career don’t just concentrate on your certification but also don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty. Know how to develop a system because when you’re auditing or inspecting you are giving improvements of feedback because you will always be appreciated. If you have experience if you have a knowledge of how to build up a system, and then you give that feedback when you’re doing your inspection and audit clients will always, welcome you and you will really enjoy your job.

[00:39:44] Name: Swarna Ariyakumar

Title: Senior Packaging Engineer

Where she works: Mars Canada Inc

Mentorship Session: Engineering (Packaging, food, mechanical)

[00:39:44] How did you get to where you are today?

Swarna graduated from the University of Toronto in Chemical Engineering and was always fascinated by the manufacturing industry and understanding how things were made. After graduation, she didn’t really know where she wanted to go but because of the Recession, she had to take the first opportunity she could get which was as a Quality Technician at Mars Pet Care where she would collect samples at the plant and test them. Swarna got curious about packaging after talking with one of the associates on the line. Connecting with others in the production facility really helped Swarna grow her career. She expressed her interest to her manager and then set up a one-on-one conversation with the packaging development manager which got her foot in the door. She also took on extra projects. so she could really understand the different areas within production whether it’s product development, process optimization but also an opportunity for me to really showcase my skills as well and build on my experience. When an opportunity for a packaging technologist came forward she applied and now Swarna has been in packaging development for 10 years now.

[00:42:38] What do you love about your job?

“There really is a lot of opportunities for us to expand. And I don’t think a lot of people are aware of that. Lots of different segments, different brands, different products that you’re working with. A lot of opportunities to really learn and grow. I started off as a technologist. And then packaging, scientist and now a senior packaging engineer. And really for me, what I really love about the packaging is that opportunity to create both a technical piece, but also that creative piece.

[00:44:39] What advice would give to students looking to go into packaging development?

Swarna believes that two things are important, relationship building and finding a good mentor. If you build relationships you can find a good mentor. Also, own your own career development. . Don’t wait for somebody to come out and help you find that opportunity. If you’re interested, ask that question, seek opportunities and ask those questions. Be curious.

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