Ayear is a long time in the world of education quangos. The government overhauled the entire qualifications framework, launching a new Qualifications and Credit Framework (or QCF as it will no doubt become known - education bigwigs love an acronym). Meanwhile, the National Skills Academy (NSA) and bakery employers have been developing a brand new bakery course. While those of you in the industry may be scratching your head and using another acronym (WTF?), don’t worry, all will become clear...in time. Trust us.

The Professional Bakery course will eventually be mapped against this framework (explained right). A lot of progress has been made. The employer-led steering group, working alongside the NSA, has developed a 10-unit Professional Bakery course. Important details about the cost of training and how it’s provided - whether it’s college-based, on-site, online or a mixture of all - are still being worked out. But the major hurdles have been overcome; we have a curriculum, colleges are on board and employers are signed up.

Four employers will put forward candidates for the pilot, ranging from the plant baker (McCambridge, Blackburn) through to specialist craft (Slattery’s, Manchester). "One of the employers wants people doing this off-site in the classroom, and others are saying ’I want you to come to us’. So our challenge now is to look at what we’ve got and how we’re going to do it," says NSA co-ordinator Jonathan Cooper.

The course itself looks comprehensive. But why are modules such as hygiene, health and safety missing, you may ask? Well that’s because employers wanted to cut away everything that was not core bakery knowledge. A Health & Safety certi- ficate may become a prerequisite of getting on the course or an add-on when it goes live.

And why sign up if your business only bakes bread, not cake or pastry? The Professional Bakery course was designed to be - excuse the jargon - like a "passport"; that is, completing this course will mark you out as a properly trained baker and offers better job prospects. "The aspiration is that, over time, the industry starts to see this as the thing they want their employees to have, because of the breadth of knowledge it can bring to their organisation," says NSA director Justine Fosh. Now it’s up to the pilot scheme to prove itself to employers.


=== How will the units work? ===

l each unit begins by stating the aims and objectives of the unit

l candidates will then be asked what they know already so that the session is completely tailored to the audience

l the core of technical information will be presented

l in each unit quality will be discussed, within the context of the skill being learned

l the underpinning knowledge is then tested to check that what has been taught has been learned effectively

l an assignment is taken back into the workplace

l the trainee takes a series of questions back to their workplace to answer, specific to their plant, to make the connection with their business


=== What is the new Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF)? ===

The QCF (for England, Wales and Northern Ireland) is born out of a major reform of vocational qualifications to simplify the system. At present, it’s hard to understand all the different types of qualification out there - what level they are, how long they take, what they cover and how they compare to other qualifications. The new framework makes qualifications easier to understand and measure.

There are three sizes of qualifications in the QCF:

l Awards (1 to 12 credits)

l Certificates (13 to 36 credits)

l Diplomas (37 credits or more)

Every unit and qualification in the framework will have a credit value (one credit represents 10 hours, showing how much time it takes to complete) and a level between Entry Level and Level 8 (showing how difficult it is).

So, in the new framework, you can have an award at Level 1 or an award at Level 8. This is because the qualification type - award, certificate or diploma - represents the size of a qualification, not how difficult it is. To understand the level of difficulty of the units and qualifications in the new framework, it might be helpful to know that GCSEs (grade A*- C) equate to Level 2, GCE A levels equate to Level 3 and a PhD equates to Level 8.