The Association of Bakery Ingredient Manufacturers (ABIM) held a forum on 6 June focusing on Growing a Sustainable Bakery Industry. The theme included social, economic and environmental topics.

One of the critical issues discussed was the current skills challenges facing the industry. Derek Williams, development director for Improve, the skills body for the food and drink industry, discussed some of the significant changes that have occurred during the last 10 years and predicted changes to the workforce demographic. His message was clear: the baking industry needs to be an attractive career choice, underpinned by high quality training and opportunities for advancement.

Additionally, he said, the industry needs to be more flexible to attract and retain a wider range of employees including females, ethnic minorities and older workers.

He was joined by Matthew May from the Alliance for Bakery Students and Trainees who brought a student’s perspective of skills needs to the discussion. A challenge he identified is that while practical skills are being taught, often the technical understanding behind them is missing.

While the industry faces a number of challenges, the skills agenda is moving ahead, including a proposal to establish a Bakery Skills Academy, first discussed at a summit during the Bakery Industry Exhibition earlier this year. Over the course of the next six months, a cross-industry group, including ABIM, will be focusing on getting the Academy up and running.