Morrisons is taking on another bumper crop of apprentices this year, signalling it intends to continue championing craft baking.
The supermarket chain will put 160 people through the NVQ Level 2 in Dough Production and Baking qualification.
Most of the trainee bakers will already be working in Morrisons stores, while it usually only has to advertise externally in a few areas around the country where it is harder to attract staff.
Nearly 1,000 bakery apprentices have been through the scheme since it started 13 years ago, which Morrisons bakery, cake shop specialist Martin Clayton said proved the retailer was investing in the future of the bakery trade. "Sometimes supermarkets can get bad press from smaller bakers, saying they are not proper bakers, but we’re focusing on craft skills and keeping scratch baking alive," he said. "When there aren’t many bakers around, you need to provide your own."
Clayton said Morrisons needed to take on so many apprentices because, although some bakers left the firm, many were promoted or moved stores. Last year apprentice intake was 177. "Past apprentices are now running bakeries we need to keep people coming through the system."
Morrisons uses colleges at Birmingham, Tameside, Glasgow and Barking to train staff, where they study for four weeks during the nine-month course, covering baking of all fermented goods, bake-off and quality control.
Barking College bakery lecturer Raymond Morum said that the calibre of apprentices was consistently good. "It’s a really good course and very well-managed." Students range in age from their late teens to early 50s, said Morum: "What pleases me most is that these people are always so keen."
The chain has about 1,000 retail vacancies across the country, including 40 for bakers; it currently employs 2,000 bakers in its 420 shops.