Spring is in the air, and as our thoughts turn to the smell of freshly baked hot cross buns, so too do Improve's. The food and drink sector skills council has re-vamped its bakery apprenticeships in a drive to recruit more and better trained young workers.
Following consultation with employers, the frameworks of both levels of bakery apprenticeships have been revised, cutting down the hours apprentices spend in the classroom and ensuring more practical skills are delivered.
The aim is to attract more apprentices on to the standard scheme, boosting the average number of starters from 65 a year to 90, and to reverse the decline in young people tackling the advanced apprenticeship.
Teresa Brookes, learning frameworks manager at Improve, says: "As in most food and drink sectors, bakery suffers from hard-to-fill vacancies, skills gaps, and an ageing workforce, with the majority of employees aged over 35. We see these revised apprenticeships as the ideal vehicle to bring more young people into the industry to help address these problems."
The main revision concerns the advanced apprenticeship (modern apprenticeship in Wales), which takes approximately two years to complete and delivers a bakery NVQ at level 3. The technical certificates, introduced in January 2003 before the creation of Improve, have been removed from the framework.
Previously the technical certificate could be obtained by one of two routes: completion of a retail qualification, or a BTEC National Award in food science and manufacturing technology.
But, says Brookes: "Neither of these qualifications was workable. The retail qualification was largely irrelevant to most young people pursuing a career in bakery, and the BTEC was only available at three colleges in England.
"They also duplicated a lot of what was taught in the NVQ, and resulted in extra time spent in the classroom, which proved impractical for apprentices and their employers."
It has also been suggested that the technical certificates were partly to blame for a decline in recruitment on to the advanced apprenticeship programme in England and Wales.
"At the moment, an average of just 15 learners begin an advanced bakery apprenticeship each year and completion rates are extremely poor. By removing the technical certificates, we're confident that numbers will start to rise," adds Brookes.
On the standard apprenticeship, which delivers a bakery NVQ at level 2, the revised framework recognises that the knowledge element can be delivered and assessed through completion of the NVQ. The aim is to increase take-up, which averages 65 learners a year, by 35% over the next three years.
For more information contact Improve on 0845 644 0448, or visit http://www.improveltd.co.uk