Getting a Job in Quality Assurance & Food Safety

Hello team FoodGrads!

I received this question from a student recently;

I’ve been looking at Quality Assurance positions in various food companies like Trophy Foods Inc., Maple Leaf Foods Inc, Mother Parkers Tea & Coffee etc. These positions require SSOP, SOP & HACCP training. I saw a program at Toronto District School Board which certifies you with those requirements. Do you know anything about the program? Do you know if I need to take it? Any other suggestions to gain this training?”

This post was popular, viewed over 15,000 times and created some friendly debate.  You are hearing from the experts in the field and I can’t thank the people who took the time to comment and offer advice enough for their valuable insight.

Here’s the feedback from the FoodGrads community!

The Food Processing Human Resources Council has partnered with the Toronto District School Board on two specific initiatives, Entry to Food Processing and Youth in Food Processing. These programs focus on training and career development for young adults less than 30 years of age through the Ready Set Work fund. Youth in Food Processing is intended for upgrading graduates of general science undergraduate programs while Entry to Food Processing targets underemployed youth. As you may guess, these programs are targeted to Toronto residents.

Food GradsThe Food Processing Human Resources Council has developed a wide variety of training tools accessible to people across Canada, and actually around the world to help improve employability and promote career development in the field.

Jennefer Griffith is the Executive Director of the Food Processing Human Resources Council, and Deanna Zenger is the FPHRC Ontario Program Coordinator and runs many of the TDSB classes for the two food processing programs. Both are great people to know and connect with” – Amy ProulxProfessor of Culinary Innovation and Food Technology at Niagara College Canada

Isabel Dopta – Food Processing HR Council can help you!

Check out this video defining Food Processing in Canada and how FPHRC can help with training and development for careers in the industry.

Adam Brock – GFTC/NSF (Guelph Food Technology Center) at the University of Guelph offers good programs for HACCP. 

My program in the Canadian Food and Wine Institute at Niagara College runs programs for all of this content within our 3 year curriculum, and also runs short term training, with certifications from SGS and SQFI. – Amy Proulx

Adrian Lee – The QA staff have Food Science or Food Technology degrees – whom we (in R&D Food Development) work closely with everyday. SSOP, SOP & HACCP are basic certifications you need to apply for QA junior positions. So, yes great to have them. You can take these courses anywhere in Toronto and I do not think it matters where – Humber College or George Brown might have these courses.

Does it matter where you train?

In some respects it does matter where you get trained, and in other respects it doesn’t. In Canada, there is no specific mandatory certification to prove competency in food safety management. In theory, one could take a one day course with some private citizen and then proclaim their skills in food safety management.
When I worked with the CFIA, I saw many food safety management specialists who took a one day training and then proclaimed themselves competent. Mastery comes from experience and a supportive training framework. Having an organization with a reputation, such as NSF, SGS or the FPHRC run the course ensures there is a quality assurance component to the training, and that course learning outcomes have been validated.
Food Graduates GradNiagara College has partnered extensively with SGS and the FPHRC to ensure the content is relevant, and has faculty teaching who are former auditors. Other schools such as Conestoga have great programs. I have seen people in this industry who have studied hard on their own and have successful careers. SQF has a self study module. BRC and FSEP have free manuals. As with any training, do your homework, and make sure training comes from a reputable source that supports your learning goals”. – Amy Proulx

Karla Pena Cabello – Take a look at GFTC – University of Guelph / NSF

Should this be an ‘on the job’ training scenario?

In a project I collaborated on, defining the most recent National Occupational Standards for food processing workers in North America, employers currently expect that entry level workers have strong competencies in HACCP, FSMA, PCP and so on.

This puts the onus on post-secondary institutions in food science to integrate the related competencies for food safety management into curriculum as mandatory competencies, and not just elective competencies. We decided to put our HACCP training into our first semester, and then work from a knowledge to mastery approach across the program, and throughout almost all of our courses at an application level.

All of our students are certified SQF Practitioners, and have multiple certificates in HACCP, Hazard Analysis and Internal Auditing from SGS, all before graduation, and all built into our academic programming. This is the sort of progressive approach that employers need to advocate to their local post-secondary institutions in food science, as this is the expectation of employers for their entry level workers.

We spend over 200 hours over 3 years on this within our academic programming. This is not the same as taking a 1-3 day course in terms of mastery of the topic” – Amy Proulx

Steven Caporusso – I do agree that some knowledge of food safety is necessary out of school. I worked for Sobeys for 3 years in various operations support positions picking up various food safety information just from being around our quality control team.

In the 4th year I had the opportunity to join our produce quality control team. at that time I had no prior food safety credentials aside from an optional intro to food safety course mainly for operations supervisors. As part of the team I learned through some of our SOPs as well as CFIA and USDA specs however, most of my knowledge came from my supervisor who had 30 years under his belt in quality control. I found the hands on training with him to show me more than any of the binders in my closet did. I found personally that having company experience helped more than having the school background. After a month my supervisor had me training the intern fresh from school.

A BIG thank you to everyone who contributed, but especially to Amy Proulx who always offers such well-rounded advice and demonstrates a clear passion for what she does.  Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and expertise.

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Related: From Concept to Career (3 Parts)