Boils need to be lanced, ears need to be unwaxed and tongues need to be bitten. That’s the rather messy - and painful-sounding - scenario facing those charged with bringing the disparate elements of the industry together to create a unified voice for skills training, following turning-point talks between student leaders and sector skills council Improve this week (pg 5).
Everybody in the industry has an opinion on skills provision - or the lack of it. Most are passionate about it. Many have gripes. But one thing is certain: nobody is happy with the current situation and things must change quickly.
The baking industry will need 16,000 new craftspeople over the next seven years, according to estimates, but the leadership to tackle this demand has been missing.
While Improve - a strategic body rather than a skills provider - recently launched a modular, flexible qualifications framework, which it says has the backing of the industry, one major question has emerged: who’s going to deliver it?
Further education bakery colleges have declined from over 20 to under 10 in eight years, and there has been an almost complete withdrawal of work-based learning providers. Meanwhile, there is a generation of trainers approaching retirement and there is no clear career path to attract young people into the profession. There are chicken-and-egg scenarios left, right and centre.
Thankfully, the Alliance for Bakery Students & Trainees has grasped the bull by the horns and will spearhead plans for a Centre of Bakery Excellence - a plan that received the full backing of Improve in the crunch meeting this week.
So what is a Centre of Bakery Excellence? Would it have satellite academies at the various bakery colleges? What about training of bakery tutors, craft skills and work-based learning? And how could we best tap government resources?
It is crucial that stakeholders voice their opinions, clear the air and back this initiative over the coming months. Last year, the government’s Leitch Report threatened to make employers’ provision of skills to Level 2 a legal requirement if not enough is done to address skills shortages by 2010. If the carrot of a better-skilled industry is not incentive enough to take action, then surely the stick of regulation will be.