23 June, 2006
It is just so ironic. Craft bakers tell me every day that they cannot recruit enough good staff or enthusiastic youngsters willing to learn the professions of bakery and confectionery. Supermarket in-stores too are facing a dearth of recruits.
In the meantime we have vast swathes of youths leaving college or dropping out of university who have probably never even considered bakery or confectionery as a living.Those that did consider it, and made a conscious decision years ago to study bakery and confectionery, are now largely middle aged or over – and love their crafts to bits. They have become business owners, managers or run in-stores and speak with real passion about what they do.But the message has not got through to the next generation. So there are highly skilled bakery, confectionery and sugarcraft tutors who would just love to teach these students and young adults: give them skills, give them pride, give them qualifications – but they can’t get enough pupils. And colleges can’t get enough funding.Many students instead are captivated by ‘catering’ and its celebrity image. So bakery courses are closing, funding is disappearing and some brilliant tutors are facing possible redundancy or early retirement.What a sad state of play!I have much resonance with Ian Sutherland’s comments that pupils should learn real breadmaking skills so that even if they work in an automated environment they can hand-mould in the event of a machinery breakdown. But if funding is being withdrawn they can’t even learn the basics! Improve, the government’s Skill Sector Council, has asked colleges to apply to become Centres of Excellence – I hope more will, that might help with funding in the long term but the crisis is NOW. So perhaps Improve and key industry figures can do some important and urgent lobbying.The Scots are going their own way with an industry-funded centre of excellence. Perhaps England would benefit from one too but regional, in fact local, courses are also vital.Elsewhere this week there is a warning not to get too optimistic about the harvest and ensuing wheat prices.And it’s your last chance to enter the Baking Industry Awards. We sent some entry forms out a bit late so the deadline’s been extended to June 30 – but please hurry!