Former bakery tutor and past chairman of the British Society of Baking Jean Grieves has called on the industry to re-evaluate its thinking on training, with a view to retaining traditional skills and bringing another generation of bakers to the fore.

Speaking at the Bakers Benevolent Society ball at the Mandarin Oriental, London, on 22 June, Grieves said: “Several years ago, when I was still actively involved in bakery education, I forecast that by 2012 there may only be two colleges in the country offering bakery courses. I see no reason to change this prediction.”

She noted that the decline in college-based courses is due to many factors, not least being that bakery is an expensive programme to operate, both in terms of equipment and space, and added: “If the closure of bakery schools is likely to continue, how are we going to ensure that there are training opportunities for the next generation of bakers? We are caretakers for the baking industry and should accept the responsibility for safeguarding its future.”

Although the industry is not without resources available in various scholarships and bursaries, she noted, these might be better channelled to work through today’s employees and practising craftsmen to ensure the existing skill base in the industry is transferred to another generation.

Capturing skills, she said, could be done easily by addressing two key elements essential to training: teaching generic skills through computer-based standard training packages used at a place of training convenient to the student and the baker, including the workplace; and teaching basic craft skills, with a nationwide network of training locations, both industry- and college-based, established.

Grieves acknowledged, however, that training is not enough and the industry still needs to attract young people. She suggested establishing a helpline for marketing to young people and encouraging them to join the industry. “The industry employs 145,000 craft people who support a turnover of £2bn. “There is every reason for young people to join our industry. Let’s shout it from the rooftops,” she concluded.