There is a culture of training within the baking industry and we want to build on that in 2006. The SAMB is very active on training – we’ve got a couple of hundred youngsters on Skills Seekers and Modern Apprenticeship schemes, and up to 900 adults in our European Social Fund Programmes. It is very pleasing to see that level of commitment from the industry.
But we are concerned that the Scottish Executive is under-funding skills training programmes, compared to England and Wales. So we would like to see that being addressed.
We also don’t want to see cutbacks in European Social Funds – designed to help economically depressed areas such as the Highlands and Islands of Scotland – because of the extension of the EU into other states, all of which are worse off than the UK. We’re concerned this will undermine our good training work.
I think the real problem will be attracting young people in the first place. We will be working with Improve, the skills sector council, in the coming year to address that, and working with schools. In Scotland we have a falling population, and young people are leaving the country.
A large number of SAMB members are using migrant workers at the moment and we’d like to see that continue, and for it to be easier for bakers to get hold of these people. The Executive has a programme to attract people into Scotland; unfortunately, that runs counter to what the Home Office is trying to do, which is to limit numbers coming into the UK. So there is a policy conflict between the needs of Scotland and the needs of the UK.
We’re very disturbed by some of the outrageous increases in water rates, gas and so on. The potential to get margins restored from the marketplace is limited. So it’s incumbent on everyone to try to a maintain costs.
A lot of new bakeries opened in 2005 and there will be more developments in 2006, which is a sign of optimism. I’d also like to see a Scotch pie craze sweep the world!