On March 17 individuals from eight organizations met in Cincinnati to discuss the future of the baking industry. Called the Bakers Alliance, the group consisted of representatives from the American Bakers Association (A.B.A.), AIB International, the American Society of Baking, the Allied Trades of the Baking Industry, BEMA, the Grain Foods Foundation, the North American Millers’ Association and Morgan Lewis.

The meeting came about after the A.B.A. developed strategic plan initiatives in 2017 and 2018 to create collaboration within and promote awareness about the industry. The Bakers Alliance was one of those initiatives. The A.B.A. invited leaders to join a movement, and these organizations responded with enthusiasm, ready to take on industry challenges together.

The first focus, set for this year, is on workforce recruitment and retention. In 2017, the A.B.A. surveyed the industry about what was having the greatest impact on their business, and three out of four of the top issues had to do with the workforce. Answers included “finding workers with appropriate skills and training,” “developing future leaders within the company,” and the “image of the industry and ability to attract skilled workers.” In 2019, the A.B.A. issued another survey asking its own members about their biggest problems. Eighty-six per cent of bakers and 70% of suppliers said that attracting and retaining a quality workforce was their main concern.

The Bakers Alliance proposed two plans of action to push the industry in a better direction. The first is an apprenticeship program, implemented on a specific level and overarching one. Currently, the representatives on the alliance are creating a guide for companies to establish an internal program. It includes possible financial resources, a list of schools and colleges that might support the program and training modules. On a broader spectrum, the Bakers Alliance is developing content used to train workers such as manufacturing technicians for specific positions with the potential for certification and accreditation.

The second action plan is a thought leadership strategy that shares the story of the industry — its “community engagement and contributions, desirability as a ‘career of choice,’ and economic impact as employers” — according to the meeting report. This story will go out to four types of audiences: middle school and high school students, technical schools and junior colleges, military service members transitioning to civilian life, and second-chance workers.

Although there are a variety of questions the Bakers Alliance is seeking to answer regarding these initiatives — What organization would be best to develop apprenticeship playbook content? How can it tell a story that shows a behind-the-scenes view of the industry? How does it set the baking industry apart from other industries for target audiences? — it’s taking steps to answer them through surveys, examining existing company programs and additional research on other industries and its target audience.

Starting off the year with a strong plan to grow the industry in one critical area, the organization seeks to maintain momentum throughout the rest of the year and beyond. The Bakers Alliance is scheduled to meet again this fall.