Several readers have commented that they have little or no faith in NVQs. Others say they wouldn’t ask if a candidate for a job had one. In fact, I have not yet found anyone to sing their praises.

Colleges, as well as industry, have had the joy of trying to make the bakery NVQ work. No-one from the education system was involved in the setting up of the NVQ for bakery. In fact, as far as I can tell, college representation was removed from the consultation process.

NVQs were sold to us as a way of ensuring the trainee got a thorough and complete training and education. Like the Child Support Agency (CSA), NVQs had lots of forms, plenty of spin and didn’t deliver the goods, and like the newly rebadged CSA, you can have more of the same. Now there’s an idea - we could name and shame the bakery companies that don’t deliver training (I don’t think!).

The paperwork attached to NVQs was intended to improve the quality of delivery, but diverts many from training and bogs down those who do it. As for the trainees, they become educational bonsai trees; they are pulled up out of the educational loom to check on the length of their roots every week and measure their progress.

So what can you in industry do? Well first, you should ask yourselves a few honest questions. Would you halt training if you had a staffing shortage in order to fulfil an urgent production order? Would you use trainees to cover for maternity leave, holidays and so on? Would you, in the case of a major downturn in profits, cut any of the following: directors’ cars, entertainment or NPD?

I have worked in industry for over 30 years and I know the answer: training never gets priority when the chips are down.

That is why it is best to let a neutral party deal with training to prevent it being hijacked by financial considerations.

The craft baking industry has a long and honourable history and, thus far, has managed to avoid total de-skilling. Yet the loss of skilled craftsmen and women from the trade is taking place because, like me, they are coming up to retirement age.

my recommendations

1. NVQs in industry should only be delivered by qualified persons.

2. Trainees should have a guaranteed contract, with penalties served on the trainer if they fail to deliver training and achieve the number of qualifications; 8/10 trainees should gain the qualification (colleges already have this).

3. Industry trainers must hold a level higher of the qualification than they are training/assessing.

4. There should be a firm, established linked training programme for bakers, confectioners and pastry chefs who train at basic levels locally, intermediate levels at appointed centres, and advanced levels in every region.

5. Funding needs to be via a material tax - flour or yeast for the bread and fermented sectors and a tax on fat/oils or sugar for the confectionery and patisserie sectors.

6. Funding for training should be returned to companies that meet the training requirements or used to support trainees in colleges.

7. Funding should be available to top up trainees’ wages, like the Educational Allowance Maintenance system paid out to young people in schools and colleges to encourage education and training.

8. Trainees should be contracted to work for the industry for a minimum of five years and receive a pay increase annually, as well as a review.

9. Employers and trainees should pay a bond to guarantee both parties in the training contract.

10. In the event of a failed business or training organisation, a ’get you trained’ plan should take place over a trainee’s education.

11. Young people should have career path options.

Industry must take charge of its own standards, training and education - not the government. The government runs the prisons, CSA, immigration and came up with NVQs, none of which are "fit for purpose". If you don’t get involved to improve the current state of affairs, you had better brush up your foreign languages. n