Reap the rewards of investment

07 September, 2007
In response to Chris North's article (BB, 17 August) Improve CEO Jack Matthews defends the new-style bakery qualifications and urges employers to use them
Page 16 
In his article 'Let's take training to task' (British Baker, 17 August) Chris North, bakery tutor at Castle College, Sheffield, stated that: "Industry must take charge of its own standards, training and education - not the government. The government... came up with NVQs, none of which are fit for purpose."
Improve is an organisation set up by employers to represent the skills needs of employers. It's our responsibility to ensure that employers have access to skills provision that is relevant, accessible and, indeed, fit for purpose.To that end, we are working with employers such as Manor Bakeries, Sainsbury's and Betty's of Harrogate, with trade associations including the National Association of Master Bakers (NA) and the Scottish Association of Master Bakers (SAMB), and with learning providers including Thomas Danby College and the North Lancs Training Group, in order to give existing food and drink qualifications a radical overhaul that will ensure that skills meet the needs of employers and employees.The culmination of this work will be the launch, next month, of a range of new-style qualifications that will provide employers, employees, and students with more flexible and accessible learning opportunities. These new qualifications will include revamped N/SVQs (National/Scottish Vocational Qualifications), specially designed to up-skill the existing workforce. Learners will be able to tailor-make their qualification by accumulating units of competence, which can be combined within any number of different pathways towards a final N/SVQ. Not only does this ensure that an individual has the specific skills required for their role, it also recognises the time limitations for those in employment, allowing them to obtain their S/NVQ in stages. The qualification will be delivered on-the-job rather than in college, to ensure that the skills can be applied in a real working environment. Examples of N/SVQ pathways include craft bakery, process bakery and production control at Level 2, and specialist craft bakery at Level 3.September will also see the introduction of entirely new vocationally-linked qualifications (VLQs), which have been designed specifically to be taught within a college or training centre. They will help potential recruits develop practical skills and knowledge in preparation for future employment, and will offer existing employees the opportunity to acquire knowledge that adds value to their existing jobs. One of the first VLQs to be launched is offering options including dough production, pastry, flour confectionery and cake decoration.Initially, these N/SVQs will be available from City & Guilds, Food & Drink Qualifications, the Scottish Qualifications Authority and SAMB, and VLQs from City & Guilds and Food & Drink Qualifications. Appropriately equipped and qualified colleges and other learning providers can deliver these new N/SVQs or VLQs, simply by contacting the relevant qualifications awarding body to progress approval arrangements. This major reform of qualifications will provide huge benefits to the sector, and to bakery and bakery product manufacturers. Learning providers will have more opportunities to expand their offering, leading to an increase in the take-up of learning, and a greater number of successfully completed qualifications, which should lead to an increase in performance and profitability throughout the sector. We thank the many employers, learning providers and other partners for their ongoing contribution to these qualifications reforms. We would now urge bakery employers to make use of these new learning opportunities, and reap the rewards of investing in skills.* Jack Matthews is CEO of Improve, the food and drinks skills sector council



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