David Hall, founder of the The London Bread & Cake Company, on the opportunities and challenges of bakery apprenticeships.

Brexit uncertainty has created an unstable workforce in our industry: existing staff are returning to their home countries, and the previous influx of new starters is not available.

Apprenticeships could fill this gap by training existing workers and retaining them, and attracting new staff. But where do those looking to undertake  apprenticeships, and bakeries wishing to take on apprentices, start?

Even though my company, London Bread & Cake, was involved from the beginning of the government’s apprenticeship programme, I’ve found it difficult to keep updated. For example, do non-levy, smaller companies know their financial input has been reduced from 10% to 5% as of April 2019 – about £450 , for potentially £9,000 worth of  training? And are companies aware that if they employ an under 19-year-old they could get a further £1,000 subsidy in funding?

Furthermore, we hear about the requirement for 20% of apprenticeship training to be ‘off the job’ as a barrier to recruiting apprentices. However the requirement doesn’t necessarily mean they need be away from the workplace, and there are a number of training interventions that can count towards the hours.

Terry Fennell, CEO of Food and Drink Qualifications, says he sees similarities between the meat and baking industries in that both sectors are predominantly made up of small high street outlets and have a proud history of craft-based apprenticeships. However, butchers have embraced the reforms, with over 600 starts in 18 months, and are utilising the £9,000 funding to upskill their SMEs, as well as often recruiting under-19s and taking advantage of the £1,000 subsidy.

Bakery SMEs have been slower to take note of the funding opportunities and are hampered by having fewer training providers to select from.

The National Bakery School is considering providing apprenticeship training and is keen to communicate with students and companies to ensure there is a requirement (see p6).

The main barrier to bakery apprenticeships succeeding for non-levy companies is finding a provider if you cannot afford to send apprentices to an off-the-job location many miles away.

The government needs SMEs to recruit younger people into apprenticeships, and if bakeries want apprentices, they need to alert the authorities to the fact they have apprenticeships to fill, but cannot find a training provider