Food and drink sector skills council Improve has revamped two levels of its bakery apprenticeships, in a bid to recruit more young workers to the sector. The revision includes a reduction in the hours apprentices spend in the classroom, so that more practical skills are delivered.

The aim is to boost the average number of starters on the standard scheme from 65 to 90 per year and to reverse the decline in the number of people taking the advanced apprenticeship.

Improve has made the changes following consultation with employers and has taken their recommendations into account. Learning frameworks manager Teresa Brookes said: “Bakery suffers from hard-to-fill vacancies, skills gaps and an ageing work force, with the majority of employees over 35. We see these revised apprenticeships as the ideal vehicle to bring more young people into the industry.”

Advanced advantages

The main overhaul has been made to the advanced apprenticeship – or modern apprenticeship in Wales – which takes around two years to complete and delivers a bakery NVQ Level 3. A key modification has been the removal of the technical certificates, introduced in January 2003 before the creation of Improve.

“The technical certificate could be obtained by one of two routes – completion of a retail qualification or a BTEC National Award in food science and manufacturing technology,” says Ms Brookes. “Neither of these qualifications was workable. The retail qualification was largely irrelevant to most young people pursuing a career in bakery and the BTEC was only available at three colleges in England. Both also duplicated much of what was taught in the NVQ and resulted in extra classroom time, which proved impractical for apprentices and employers.”

Recruitment to the advanced apprenticeship scheme in England and Wales has declined in the last three years, adds Ms Brookes, and consultation with employers suggested that this has been because of the technical certificate. “At the moment an average of just 15 learners begins an advanced bakery apprenticeship each year and completion rates are extremely poor,” she says. “By removing the technical certificates, we’re confident numbers will rise.”

Meanwhile, the standard apprenticeship (foundation modern apprenticeship in Wales) delivers a bakery NVQ Level 2. The revised framework recognises that the knowledge element can be delivered and assessed through completion of the NVQ. Take-up into the standard apprenticeship scheme in England has remained consistent over the last few years, with an average of 65 students per year. “Our aim is to increase take-up by at least 35% over the next three years,” says Ms Brookes.

For more information, contact Teresa Brookes at Improve on 0845 644 0448 or visit