Bakery training provision is undergoing the most radical change in its history. Well, modern history at least. Ancient Egyptians discovering yeasted doughs probably required a bit more syllabus re-writing.

The industry came together last year, alongside the National Skills Academy (NSA), to do something about the skills gap in bakery. A steering group was formed and the industry decided on a ’Professional Bakery’ certificate that would act like an industry ’passport’ to anyone who achieves it.

The course would cover 10 set modules and would be available to anyone in employment. It would have to be flexible. It would suit industrial, craft and supermarket bakers alike. And it would say to the employer: "I have a thorough understanding of baking bread, cakes and pastries, and more importantly, how to apply this in a commercial environment."

Meanwhile, another option of pick-and-choose modules the Bakery Proficiency Course announced last month is being developed by Improve. The background to all of this is that the government has overhauled the entire qualifications framework not just for bakery. While the new credits framework is seen as an improved way of structuring qualifications, it leaves issues like funding in limbo in the short-term.

Confusing enough. But the air is clearing around the NSA Professional Bakery course, which made the breakthrough of kicking off a pilot course on Wednesday last week. The pilot will cover four of the 10 proposed course modules. Six one-day classes will take place every fortnight, totalling 48 hours of learning. They will cover ingredients, ingredients handling, mixing/processing techniques and product evaluation.

Industry wide
Fifty students have enrolled on the course from Sayers, Greenhalgh’s, McCambridge and Slattery Patissier & Chocolatier. The pilot has been designed to be flexible, with a mix of college and work-based training. For example, Slattery’s and Greenhalgh’s teaching will be delivered at Slattery’s premises; McCambridge will have a mix of on-site tuition and classes at Liverpool Community College; and Sayers’ candidates will be taught at Liverpool and Tameside colleges.

Candidates on the pilot have a wide range of abilities and job roles, from shop floor workers to managers. McCambridge, for example, has put forward two production managers, national account managers keen to build their knowledge and new product developers. Not then your typical bakery college student, but all of whom were eager to develop their knowledge and skills. Greenhalgh’s students range from apprentices to workers on the pie line.

"If you involve people more to come up with solutions, you find some stars within your team that you might not have appreciated," said Mark Eccles of McCambridge, which has also seen the benefits of training staff in lean manufacturing.

The key point is that the course will have a flexible approach to teaching. Achieving a Professional Bakery certificate would require the completion of all 10 modules. But those units would not necessarily have to be taken consecutively in a block. Instead, they could be built up incrementally in a flexible manner better suited to employers’ schedules and budgets.

So if you are a smaller bakery firm and, say, you have a problem mixing a product, you could send an employee to be taught the mixing module and address the issue as it applies to your business. That employee might then build upon that by taking other modules in the following months or years to finally achieve Professional Bakery status.

Bakery overlap
"We took the view as a group that bakery technology is about everything you can’t talk cake technology and bread technology because there are times when the two overlap. So there will be opportunity to specialise in some of the units," said Paul Catterall of Campden BRI, which is co-ordinating the NSA pilot.

The success of this will be assessed after the trial finishes in December, and the results will be presented at the next Bakery Steering Group meeting comprised of employers, trainers and trade associations on 20 January. Anyone in the industry is free to attend.

"It’s a very strong product, and we wouldn’t have had companies like McCambridge responding to it, if it hadn’t been structured in the way that it is," added Jonathan Cooper of the NSA.

If you are interested in attending one of the training days please contact Jonathan Cooper at: or call 07813 774425.

For more information on Improve’s proposed course contact or call 0845 644 0448.