Sainsbury’s is to open the UK’s first supermarket bakery college in an ambitious drive to train hundreds of staff.

The college has been set up in partnership with flour supplier Whitworths, and is based at one of Whitworths bakeries in Welling-borough. Rather than using one of the usual colleges or universities, the new facility will speed workers through an NVQ Level 2 in retail in half the time it currently takes, from 12 months to six months, meaning qualified bakers will be sent into stores more quickly. Sainsbury’s will recruit 200 bakery apprentices this year (up on 104 last year) as part of its target to have at least one apprentice in every supermarket.

However, college training will be available to everyone who works in bakery, not just apprentices, and the supermarket chain plans to send all its bakery workers from stores around the country about 1,500 people including 400 bakery managers on a five-day course at Wellingborough. This starts with a tour of the mill before moving onto the basics such as the biology behind the yeast. Students will then move on to practical skills, such as handrolling and how to do a mix. This will help them make rolls, French sticks and a wide range of other goods.

Nick Townend, Sainsbury’s bakery category manager, said: "Opening a bakery training college will ensure that all of the bakers across our estate are trained to a consistently high standard. We are committed to scratch-baking to deliver the best in freshness and quality for our customers. So we have substantial growth in our current and future need for skilled bakery colleagues."

Training at the college which is not affiliated with the National Skills Academy will be carried out by Sainsbury’s learning and development trainers, all of whom have a background in bakery. It aims to train 12 bakery workers a week.

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Yvette Cooper said: "As one of the UK’s biggest youth employers I welcome Sainsbury’s commitment to train the next generation of bakers."