Ours is a proud craft industry, that is resisting attempts to completely de-skill it in order to save money. The baker or pastry chef in Europe is a respected member of the community. In the UK, our image is poor and careers teachers at school give us 1 out of 10 for job prospects. It’s hardly surprising that the young people we need go elsewhere!
Some think the problem can be solved by recruiting young people from university. But what about our image?
The industry needs its own funds - a levy on flour or yeast for the fermented sector and sugar or fats for confectionery would be one way. Support from the millers and suppliers to promote a bakery version of Jamie Oliver to improve our image is another.
School careers staff have no idea on who we are or what we do. The army tells young people about their jobs, but what do we do? Like it or loathe it, the advert for Skoda’s orange cake car has done more to show what bakers can do than anything the industry has launched.
We could put our hands into our pockets and support education and training for young people. There’s no quick fix. We need to sow seeds at school, encourage colleges and training centres and invest in a joined-up qualification for the industry.
In the Netherlands, trainee bakers hold trade qualifications. Students must take exams set by the industry’s own lead body before they can train, with funding from ingredients levies.