Fears that decades of baking expertise could be lost to the next gene-ration of bakers, because of a lack of training provision, have prompted the creation of a new online bakery school.

Due to be launched at the Baking Industry Exhibition (BIE) on 6-9 April and go live in May, [http://www.thebakeryschool.com] is the brainchild of Jean Grieves, a former bakery tutor and conference chairman of the British Society of Baking (BSB), and prominent craft baker Albert Waterfield of Waterfields of Leigh, Lancashire.

The website will feature in excess of 50 modules, covering all aspects of baking, including bread, confectionery and raw materials, which students can work through at their own pace. They will feature three main areas: ingredients; methods; and processes/problem-solving. Each module will feature a short online assessment, and should be backed up by practical training in the bakery. The modules do not count towards official qualifications, such as NVQs.

"A man might be working on the buses one week, get a job in a bakery the next, and be able to use the online modules to pick up fundamentals of the job under the guidance of his employer the next. They will help him understand the underpinning knowledge of the processes he is working on in the bakery. This is about passing on knowledge to people who haven’t had the benefit of a bakery college education," says Albert Waterfield.

The modules will naturally appeal to the craft sector, but plant bakers could also be interested, he says. "When things go wrong in a plant bakery, staff still need to understand why it went wrong and how to put it right."

== Move to online ==

Originally, the modules were to be put on to discs that could be sent out to bakeries, but Jean says they quickly realised the web would be a better medium; it can be easily updated, is available 24 hours a day and can be developed to include video demonstrations and photographs. Many of the modules have already been sent out by disc to several well-known craft bakers to trial, including Birds of Derby, Wienholts and Mathiesons. The website will go live in May and is expected to cost £250 for a year’s access to all modules.

Jean and Albert have been working on the project for two years, investing considerable amounts of their own time and money, in an effort to safeguard the bakery expertise in the industry for future generations. They also received around £4,000 worth of support from Association of Bakery Ingredients Manufacturers, the BSB and the north west region of the National Association of Master Bakers. The British Confectioners’ Association has also since become a major supporter of the project.

While skills sector council Improve is also looking to set up a National Skills Academy for bakery - a project that will be discussed at a meeting at the BIE - Jean says there is no conflict of interest between the two schemes. "We think the Bakery School will complement Improve’s work and we would be happy to work with them later down the line," she says. "But we felt we had to do something now to safeguard the skills and knowledge in our industry before they are lost forever. Government-led initiatives can take a long time to happen. We were both really concerned about colleges closing and what is happening with the next generation of bakers. We felt we had to act immediately."