My family bakery in Kent has just had its inspection, ready for work experience placements next year. This made me wonder how many bakers are taking up this worthwhile and rewarding opportunity.
We have been involved with the local school work experience scheme for over 20 years. At first, the scheme was run by the schools themselves, but this is now organised by the Medway Education Business Partnership, which co-ordinates various aspects of education in business. The idea is that, for two weeks, young people are sent out to work in a local business, without pay, in order to gain experience of a working environment.
In this way, they are able to find out what it would be like when they leave school in a year or so. They have a file and keep a daily diary, which we discuss with them at the end of the placement.
The pupils are mainly sent to factories, offices and our bakery. The teachers try to match each pupil with a particular interest.
On the first day the pupils are given Health & Safety instructions. They are then paired with a staff member to watch and observe. Within a short time they are soon stamping out pies and icing buns, as well as the usual tasks of cleaning trays and washing up. As time goes by, many acquire skills they would not have believed they could possess.
The boys and girls we have on the scheme all come from our three local secondary schools, all of which have been deemed ’failing’. Yet, in the bakery, we have seen some of the greatest and most helpful kids and workers you could wish to meet. They work shoulder to shoulder with us on the daily routine and go home tired and happy. When they leave us, they usually ask for Saturday or holiday jobs.
Sometimes, the work experience can help a pupil decide on future employment in other ways. One young lady, after finishing her two weeks, said to me: "Thank you for helping me make my mind up about working in a bakery or kitchen when I leave school - I really don’t want to do it!"
At the moment I have two full-time members of staff who first started as work experience youngsters.
A short while ago, I met a very smart banqueting manageress at a high-class hotel, when I was delivering a wedding cake. "You don’t remember me," she said, "but I did work experience in your bakery." The time she spent with us helped her decide to take up a career in hotel management.
One lad, with no qualifications, returned to us for a full-time job and eventually became our number-one baker. He is still in the trade today, as a manager for a top in-store bakery.
We all want a never-ending supply of good staff and, like new potatoes, you can’t beat growing your own! As we run our bakeries, we are probably the best people to train them and that is why work experience gives us an insight into future staff. Try it