What have fishermen got that bakers don’t - apart from whiffy hands and a taste for horrible mints? A national centre for skills, that’s what. Meanwhile baking, possibly the oldest profession (behind the illegal one that also involves fishnets), has had to put up with businesses, skills providers and government all pulling in different directions.

In the seafish industry, the various associations, trade and training groups united to build a National Skills Academy Centre for their sector, based in Grimsby. This delivers greater accessibility to training and is augmented by seven other centres, as well as materials available for training via IT. This has enabled the seafish sector to access significant government investment to increase skills. So why can’t it be the same for bakery?

The answer is, it can. Thanks to some effective lobbying from the Alliance for Bakery Students & Trainees and other interested parties, sector skills council Improve has given its backing to a training centre for bakery. Bakery employs more people than seafish and has a larger financial impact on the food and drink manufacturing sector, so the benefits of getting skills provision right are immense. Baking industry bodies, such as the Association of British & Irish Millers (abim), have already been persuaded to support the project.

A Centre of Bakery Excellence has been mooted for a long time, but has never built any momentum beyond the talking-shop stage. But now the ball is finally rolling and the centre should come to fruition under the direction of the National Skills Academy. The Academy is already seeking expressions of interest for hosting the new centre, provisionally called The National Skills Academy for Bakery.

Over the next three months, we are keen for you to voice your views on what you think the centre should be for. We will also explain a number of key issues set to play out in the baking industry, including the Sector Skills Agreement, the role of the National Skills Academy and, biggest of all, last year’s government-commissioned Leitch report, the policy driver on skills within the workplace, colleges and schools. The report recommends exacting targets and threatens to introduce a training levy if employers do not embrace the need to increase skills or make significant progress to the targets identified. Leitch is an England-only policy, but it is likely that the direction will be followed in each of the other UK nations.

Our aim is to show you how the bakery sector could build a mechanism to deliver these skills through a National Skills Academy Centre. In April, it is hoped the Baking Industry Exhibition will host a conference to thrash out the detail. So why not make your views heard by contacting andrew.williams@ william-reed.co.uk?