Improve, the food and drink sector skills council, plans to introduce new bakery qualifications by September 2009. The qualifications will be publicly accredited and will mean that workplace skills will be recognised outside the NVQ structure for the first time in 20 years.

Improve said it will embark on a radical qualification reform, working with employers in order to develop the most relevant qualifications for the industry, as well as being flexible in order to suit employer and employee needs. "In many industries, including bakery, some employers have found that the NVQ framework has been too rigid and not relevant enough to the needs of their workforce," said Jack Matthews, chief executive of Improve.

It is hoped the new scheme will enable people to develop gradually, building on bite-sized chunks of learning. At every level of skill there will be three different sizes of qualification, starting with an Award, building to a Certificate, and finally a Diploma. All qualifications and Units of Assessment (UoA) will be accredited under a new Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF) and would have credit values that could be combined in flexible ways to make up new qualifications.

"We want to see the first replacement bakery qualifications in place in September 2009," said development director Derek Williams. "So we need to have finished the development work by April 2009, but there are a lot of processes to go through, from development of the qualifications to funding issues, approval and creating awareness of them."