Having spent a lifetime in the trade - many of those years in training - we seem to have endlessly thrown the skills ball around, with few willing to take on the challenge. So what are these skills: are they craft, process, or apprenticeship and where are they coming from, together with the supporting knowledge and understanding?

When Improve was requesting industry support to establish food manufacturing standards, including bakery, interest and response was poor. Like it or not, this is our Sector Skills Council set up by government and now established to complete this task. The standards for achieving accreditation have been written and they do contain all the craft skills within their units.

Bakery is now grouped with meat and fish. It therefore requires a strong individual trade voice. Do you know what Improve is or what it does? Improve has now commissioned a UK work study that will highlight the benefits of training in the food and drink industry. Will bakery firms be represented within the 200 manufacturers consulted and, if so, what will they say?

The craft sector is now in single figures as a percentage of the industry. Some say they do not require a training support and structure, or see a need for this. Why should staff find our industry attractive if these structures and resources are not available to them? Surely we must invest in our staff, so that they can understand the method, materials and process they are controlling. Pride in quality of product should be the attraction, particularly to the able young people we need to entice to the industry.

It is interesting to see the supermarkets again revisiting Sector Skills Council training and careers. Let’s hope a good choice of modules will add further craft skills to their bakers, who represent a very large slice of the bakery business.

We must consider the implications of the Leitch report for bakery; who is going to identify and select all the skills required and who is going to deliver them? We will all have different views and objectives, but with the govern- ment announcing high amounts of funding available for acceptable provision, we need to support the people who are prepared to give time and effort to achieve real progress. Failing this, we could always buy another machine! n


=== Need to know ===

Where should a skills academy be located? Workplaces in bakery in the UK are concentrated within the north west of England (17%), followed by Yorkshire and Humberside, London and Scotland.