What will be the biggest issue your business faces in 2008?

That was the question posed by British Baker in its last online poll at [http://www.bakeryinfo.co.uk]. Between 10 December 2007 and 5 February, when it closed, 39% of respondents believed that skills shortages would be the biggest issue to face their business in 2008. That’s higher than those who cited rising ingredients costs, at 35%.

This will be the biggest issue facing your business and the industry for the foreseeable future, unless something is done to retain the skills left, and instil them into the next generation.

What can be done? Quite a lot, actually. The industry has a chance to ensure any future training and education provision it receives is relevant. To that end, the ABST is working on a proposal for a National Skills Academy Training Centre for Bakery (NSATCB). It has already gained support from the British Society of Baking and the Association of Bakery Ingredient Manufacturers and is now seeking support from other leading industry bodies - the Worshipful Company of Bakers, National Association of Master Bakers, Federation of Bakers and British Confectioners’ Association.

The case for action will be put forward to the wider industry at the Baking Industry Exhibition at the NEC in April.

The future of the industry has reached a fork in the road. It can either carry on along its current path, continuing to lose its skills and knowledge, or it can unite with one voice and work to retain its lifeblood for future generations.

So why not engage in the debate and help to ensure the future prosperity of this industry?

* Write to Matthew May, general secretary, Alliance for Bakery Students & Trainees (ABST), email: ziltam@ btinternet.com or BB: andrew.williams@william-reed.co.uk