Bakery companies have become the first employers to sign up to a new Young Apprenticeship Scheme, set up by food and drink skills council Improve.

Nantwich-based New Prime-bake, Nottingham-based Smiths Flour Mills, and three craft bakeries in Suffolk will launch the scheme in September. The Suffolk bakeries involved are Crown Bakery, Carmans Bakery and Carrot Cake, all in Ipswich. These companies and linked education establishments, have had government funding awarded to offer 80 Young Apprenticeships in Food and Drink from September 2006. Under this scheme, 14-year-old school pupils will be able to sign up for a Young Apprenticeship in Food and Drink Manufacturing, the equivalent of four GCSEs.

Improve has steered the development of the two-year programme, which will allow students to spend two days a week combining studies at a local college and work expe-rience with local employers. The other three days will be spent at school, studying the national curriculum in subjects such as English and maths. Improve provided support and advice to all three partnerships in their bid to secure funding and will work alongside them, on student recruitment. Next year, the three partnerships will have the opportunity to bid for further funding to help offer more students an apprentice-ship programme.

Improve development director Derek Williams said: “We are delighted the bakery sector has come forward. This is the first time young people of this age will be able to gain such a wide range of skills and know-ledge relevant to food and drink manufacturing.”