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?
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.