Hiring co-op students helps Conestoga Meats avoid future talent gaps

Thursday, December 8, 2022

Four co-op students working at Conestoga Meats

By: Krista Henry (she/her)

When Conestoga Meats looked to the future of the Canadian pork industry, the company saw a talent gap on the horizon. To assist, they tripled the number of co-op students they hired across all departments.

In Ontario’s food and beverage industry, an estimated 25,000 positions will go unfilled by 2025, according to a report from Food and Beverage Ontario. As a leading production facility in the pork industry, Conestoga Meats aims to get ahead of the talent problem.

Rebecca Tosswill
Rebecca Tosswill (she/her)
Talent and organizational development manager at Conestoga Meats

“We typically hire about three to four co-op students each year on a rotating basis,” says Rebecca Tosswill (she/her), talent and organizational development manager at Conestoga Meats and Waterloo graduate.

“However, during the market changes caused by the global pandemic, everyone really started to recognize the value of co-op talent. We’ve ramped up our hiring since.”

Today, the organization hires 12 co-op students each term. Students work in roles such as HR assistant, sales and marketing co-op, quality assurance and HACCP assistant, and project engineering assistant.

The organization hires students from diverse programs including Biochemistry, Sociology, Engineering, Legal Studies, and Mathematics and Business.

“We look to different programs for not only technical skills, but for what are the latest trends and practices in all these fields that are relevant to our business,” says Tosswill (BA ’15).


Room for career growth for students

As a farmer owned co-operative company with pork supplied by family-owned farms in and around Breslau, Conestoga Meats is rapidly expanding.

“In the last decade we have tripled in size and initiated several expansion projects to increase the capacity of our production areas. We continue to plan for increased growth in the coming years,” says Tosswill. “We’re an essential service and sustainable company with lots of room to grow. There are so many career opportunities that students can fill.”

By targeting students through the organization’s co-op program, Conestoga Meats is building their brand reputation with the next generation of talent.

top quote

There can be some misconceptions about meat plants. We want to get students to see what we do, talk about us and what we do. The benefit of having so many students with us (in) a term is that they build a community with each other and us. Overall, it’s a very positive experience for everyone involved.



To attract students, the company revamped their job descriptions to focus on the projects students would contribute to. Conestoga Meats emphasizes the job shadowing and mentorship that students receive while working with them.

On Tosswill’s team, her co-op student is involved in all aspects of the recruitment process hiring for a biweekly orientation, working on social media content and HR system improvements.

In the sales and finance departments, co-op students assist with writing proposals to increase the volume of products being sold to well-known local grocers. In marketing and communications, students share ideas about how to increase the engagement and reach of Conestoga Meats’ social media platforms.

Following a positive first work term experience, some co-op students have returned for multiple terms at Conestoga Meats. A few co-op students have transitioned into full-times roles at the company after graduating.

Interested in getting ahead of the manufacturing talent gap?

Consider hiring a co-op student! Check out manufacturing roles where co-op students can make an impact.

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