Sainsbury’s is targeting school leavers for an in-store Bakery Apprenticeship Scheme which it plans to roll out to all 360 of its scratch bakeries.

The supermarket plans to recruit the first 30 trainees to pilot the scheme in the north east and London this year. It hopes to introduce a further 60 apprentices through its stores in 2007, as it starts to roll out the scheme nationwide.

Johanna Jones, qualifications manager, said the first 10 apprentices are being recruited for the north east from this month. Sainsbury’s is particularly aiming to attract 16 to 18 year olds, she said. One recruit, or a maximum of two, will be posted per store. Ms Jones told British Baker: “We decided to pilot in the north east as the region has a strong background in bakery and the departments can support training.”

Recruitment for 10 trainees for London stores will start after exam time in June. Another 10 trainees will be recruited in September and October. They are also likely to be posted in London, where Sainsbury’s has a shortage of trained bakers.

The new course has been designed by Sainsbury’s and developed with Skillsmart Retail, the Sector Skills Council for the retail sector.

Government funding has been allocated to support training candidates aged up to 24 in England. Older candidates will also be considered, funded by Sainsbury’s itself.

Sainsbury’s will also seek government funding for the scheme in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The apprenticeship lasts between 12 and 18 months – allowing trainees to progress at their own speed. It is equivalent to five GCSEs (grade A*-C) and includes an NVQ Level 2, one unit of a NVQ Level 3, a technical certificate and NVQ Level 2 key skills.

The course covers modules from stock management and quality standards to selling techniques and baking skills. Trainees will have a ‘buddy’ to act as a sounding board.

Apprentices can become in-store bakers once they complete the course, or take on a fast track career path to a supervisory or junior management role.

Sainsbury’s project manager for the apprenticeship, Julia Read, said: “We’ve recognised that the number of skilled bakers is sharply declining. We’re extremely proud to be the first supermarket to offer an apprenticeship with a craft and to be working so closely with Skillsmart Retail to deliver a qualification that really meets our business needs.”