Computer science student Tong Li gets a close look at a gauge in the Hiram Walker and Sons distillery.Computer science student Tong Li gets a close look at a gauge in the Hiram Walker and Sons distillery.

Tour gives students a taste for careers in distilling

A group of UWindsor students got a taste of local culture Tuesday, touring the Hiram Walker and Sons distillery to learn about career opportunities in the industry.

The company, founded in 1858, is now a subsidiary of the French-based Pernod Ricard group. Its operation in Windsor is the largest distillery in North America and produces a variety of alcoholic beverages, including Canadian whisky, rum, and vodka.

“People in Windsor understand that we’ve been here for a long time, but there is a corporate aspect to it that is not as well known,” said Angelo DeMarco, director of human resources, North America. “We employ people in finance, engineering, supply chain management, and one of the largest IT departments in the region.”

He told the students — about 30 majoring in computer science, business, engineering, and science — that the company draws on the local workforce to develop the specialized skills required.

“We are a company that really believes in growing talent,” DeMarco said.

Employees divided the students by discipline of study for in-depth discussions of career opportunities before leading them on a tour of the manufacturing plant.

Computer science student Nikola Zjalic said the day’s activities taught him something new about a Windsor institution.

“I feel like I got more exposure to the culture of a different work environment,” he said.

Selena Celic, a fourth-year student of industrial engineering, agreed.

“I am interested in pursuing a job outside automotive production,” Celic said. “Here I saw what goes on in a company with completely different manufacturing processes.”

The day wrapped up with a whisky tasting led by master blender Don Livermore.

All in all, the event is one worth repeating, said Bill Marino, an employer engagement specialist in the University’s Office of Co-operative Education and Workplace Partnerships, which arranged it.

“Our goal is to give our students career-building experiential learning,” he said. “There is something to be said for going into the employer’s site and the industry operations.”

The Office of Co-operative Education and Workplace Partnerships works with employers and students to provide experiential learning opportunities for students where they can apply the knowledge they learned during their course of study to their placements, and in return gain valuable job experience.