T he Sector Skills Council Improve recently embarked on a drive to attract new talent into the baking industry by rationalising the training courses on offer to ensure they are vocationally led. The campaign is targeted at delivering a 35% increase in enrolments to bakery courses across the UK and will go some way to addressing the current issues of an ageing workforce and the impending skills shortage.
However, work within the baking industry is not seen by many looking to enter the food sector as one of the more sexy areas in which to develop a career.
Although Improve’s initiatives are a step in the right direction, they become redundant unless 16-18-year-olds are aware of what’s on offer. The question is, what does the baking industry need to do to become more fashionable?
We need to ensure that a consistent profile is maintained throughout the media and enterprise to continually stimulate and attract new talent.
Manufacturers, retailers, and other leading bakery bodies, need to work together to promote the benefits of developing a career in bakery as opposed to elsewhere in the food industry.
There needs to be better educa-tion in schools and universities about what the industry can offer.
There needs to be engagement with experts in recruitment and human resources to fully understand the needs and desires of those looking to develop a career within the food sector.
And there needs to be a coordinated media campaign to promote bakery as an exciting industry with varied career prospects.
Media discussion, outside the trade publications, has already been driven by a growing focus on healthy eating trends, which has involved debate around bakery products.
To capitalise on this interest, the industry needs a figurehead who can act as its champion and elevate its profile. Jamie Oliver’s advertising campaign on behalf of Sainsbury’s, which showcases healthy eating and the importance of a good, well-balanced diet, is a great example of how a high-profile figurehead, combined with a forward-thinking retail organisation, can challenge conventional thinking on every-day products.
This is the sort of formula that could be adopted by large bakery organisations in a way that could stimulate interest in the category and make it more appealing as a choice of career.
Dan Lepard, who is already something of a figurehead and currently at the forefront of a British bread revival, has already taken steps to change the image of bakers. His proposals to replace the traditional bakery uniform with something ’cooler’ are a recent example of a positive move towards media-friendly innovation that will be sure to appeal to a younger audience.
For any of these measures to be effective, it is vitally important that the government makes a commit-ment to raising the profile of bakery from an early age through integra- tion in the educational agenda. Equally, a commitment must be shown from government enterprise bodies to support the regional development and sustainability of bakeries of all sizes.
Bakery governing bodies and influential industry figureheads must be relentless in campaigning to achieve these goals, as the suc-cess of this agenda will ultimately determine the future for the next generation of bakers. We must act now to ensure the baking industry continues to prosper. n