Finding Skilled Labor

As job requirements become more specialized and workers are needed to perform a wider range of duties, the workforce skills gaps at bakeries across the country are reaching a critical juncture.

Seattle-based Columbia City Bakery owner Evan Andres, a three-time semifinalist for James Beard’s coveted Outstanding Baker award, says it takes a commitment to educating new bakers in your shop and developing talent. Think of yourself as a mentor to your staff and help them develop a passion for the craft of baking. Allow them the freedom to experiment, but provide guidance from your experiences every step of the way.
 
“Hopefully by their second year, the experience they gain starts paying off,” Andres says. “Then you have to hope they stay.”
 
Retail store owners and managers are left asking: Do I hire for specific skills or do I hire based on attitude and potential? How do I afford to invest in training my staff when they might not be around for long? How do I manage, develop talent and still do all the necessary production work that needs to be taken care of every day?

Evan Andres is the owner of Columbia City Bakery in Seattle.
 
All are relevant and important questions, and the starting point begins with taking a deep breath and recognizing that you don’t have all the answers. You need assistance, and there are many resources out there where you can reach out for help.

Michael Eggebrecht, president and chief executive officer of Artisan Baking Resources, recommends hiring people who care to learn. “Hire based on morals, values and passion,” he suggests. “Don’t get caught up so much in looking for a certain set of skills.”
 
From culinary schools to bakery trade associations, numerous organizations and individuals are working hard on a daily basis to alleviate the pressure of this key issue that is challenging the future of the bakery and pastry industry.
 
The Bread Bakers Guild of America has announced the launch of the first phase of its new artisan baker certification program: Certified Bread Baker. The goal of the program is to establish and measure the core skills of an artisan baker.
 
Benefits of certification include demonstrating knowledge and skill to staff, peers, managers and the public, as well as showing commitment to the highest levels of professionalism and care. Further, certification opens career options for professionals, elevates self-esteem and pride in one’s work, and improves credibility with employers and the general public. For more information, visit www.bbga.org.  

Further, the Retail Bakers of America (www.retailbakersofamerica.org) offers a comprehensive certification program that raises professional standards and verifies the knowledge, skills and abilities that professional bakers bring to the marketplace. Certification also increases job opportunities and income for certified bakers and decorators.
 
According to the association, RBA certification greatly benefits four types of retail bakers:
 
Students graduating from a baking or culinary programs, but have limited work experience
Bakery staff with little or no technical training, but much on-the-job training
Bakery staff specializing in decorating or bread baking
Retail bakers with four or more years of experience.   
 
RBA provides professionals of the retail baking industry the opportunity to earn up to four certifications:   
 
Certified Journey Baker (CJB)  
A baker at this level assists in the preparation and production of pies, cookies, cakes, breads, rolls, desserts or other baked goods for a commercial bakery. Duties may include stocking ingredients, preparing and cleaning equipment; measuring ingredients, mixing, scaling, forming, proofing, oven tending, and product finishing. He/she must demonstrate a basic knowledge about the principles of sanitation.   
 
Certified Baker (CB)  
A Certified Baker prepares and produces baked goods while assisting with general commercial bakery operations. He/she has considerable responsibility and autonomy and participates in a broad range of both complex and routine work activities, including supervision of other staff and allocation of resources. He/she must demonstrate a basic knowledge of bakery sanitation, management, retail sales/merchandising and staff training.   
 
Certified Decorator (CD) 
A decorator at this level and for this designation prepares and finishes sweet baked goods for a commercial bakery. Duties include preparing icings, decorating a variety of cakes using various techniques, seasonal displays and specialty designs, and working with customers. He/she demonstrates a basic knowledge about sanitation.   
 
Certified Master Baker (CMB)  
A baker at this level and for this designation participates in a broad range of complex, technical or professional work activities, performed in a wide variety of contexts with a substantial degree of personal responsibility and autonomy. Responsibility for the work of others and allocation of resources is present. He/she must have the technical and administrative skills necessary to operate and manage the production area of a full-line independent or in-store commercial bakery. He/she must produce high quality bakery foods, and demonstrate a basic knowledge about the principles of sanitation, management, retail sales/merchandising and training.