Warrens Bakery staff have become the first to get a new-style qualification without spending time in the classroom, doing coursework, or exams.

Forty-two of the Cornish company’s store managers and assistant managers have just finished an NVQ Level 2 course in Food Manufacture Retail and Service Support Skills, with assessment based only on observation by their managers.

The course, developed by Cornwall College Business in conjunction with the food and drink sector skills council Improve, dovetails with Warrens’ internal training programme. It takes place on the job, and progress is recorded as employees carry out activities, or ‘taskways,’ correctly on more than one occasion.

Warrens’ eight area managers have been trained to teach and assess the NVQ. Senior area manager Andrew Cane said: “This qualification used to involve a lot of paperwork, which many employees were just not comfortable with. This is a million times better and we now just have to watch and ask questions.”

Warrens’ Heamoor store manager Alistair Sedgeman added: “It felt like I was just assessed on what I normally do day-to-day. It has helped sharpen my skills.”

Family-owned firm Warrens has 450 retail staff across 50 outlets and all will complete the course.