My Career

28 August, 2009
Dawn Gemmell, head of bakery, University College Birmingham (UCB), formerly Birmingham College of Food and Tourism.
Page 31 

What does your job involve?

I head up a team of two full-time bakery lecturers, a technician and five part-time staff, plus I'm responsible for the Cakes and Bakes Shop at the College, which sells bread and confectionery made by the students. We run a wide variety of bakery, confectionery and cake decoration courses at the university, including NVQ Level 1, VRQ Levels 2 & 3 and evening courses for adult learners. Altogether we have around 200 trainees. Through our BusinessHub@UCB we also currently teach 46 trainees from Morrisons' in-store bakeries.

How did you come to work in education?

I always loved making cakes when I was growing up and knew I wanted to work in a bakery. So when I left school, I joined a bakery chain in Birmingham called Hughleys. While I was there I took several training courses in bakery at The College of Food and worked my way up to decorating cakes. I then became the head of the cake decoration department at the bakery in Lewis's department store, before applying for a job as a technician at The College of Food. It was my 30th anniversary of working here in January and 15 of those have been as head of bakery. Last year, I successfully completed an honours degree in hospitality and I'm now working on a Masters.

What makes a good teacher?

You have to be an excellent communicator at all levels. I'm a mentor, counsellor and tutor for my students all rolled into one. You also have to be honest, hard-working and be able to manage people well. If you get that right, people will respect you.

What makes a good baker?

Students need to enjoy what they are doing and have good craft skills. They also need to work hard and build up their background knowledge about ingredients and techniques. If you want to succeed in this industry, you can. There are lots of opportunities out there. Many of our students go onto work for big companies, such as Hovis and Dawn Foods.

What have been your career highlights?

I have always enjoyed my work and love the industry. UCB has given me the chance to travel and work in Europe and, two years ago, I spent three weeks in China demonstrating craft skills to prospective students. I've met lots of amazing people - Princess Anne, Cherie Blair and Margaret Beckett, to name a few. I was also commissioned to make the birthday cake for Prince Charles' 40th birthday celebrations. More recently, I became a member of the Worshipful Company of Bakers.





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