WASHINGTON — The BakingWorks.org website, designed to address labor issues within the baking industry, originally was scheduled to launch at the end of June.
“Then COVID-19 happened, and the world changed,” said Jennifer Colfelt, vice president of operations and membership for the American Bakers Association.
The ABA expedited the project and launched BakingWorks.org on May 12. The careers website is dedicated to connecting job seekers to baking industry job opportunities. Many baking industry companies, needing to meet increasing retail demand for their products during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, are looking for people to work in a variety of positions, both permanent and temporary.
Open positions are in mechanical, engineering, bakery production, transportation, sales, finance and food safety. Wholesale baking industry companies include baking companies, equipment manufacturers, ingredient suppliers and millers. These companies may post available jobs on the website.
Bakeries are having trouble filling all the positions needed to stay in operation 24 hours a day, seven days a week, a schedule needed to meet the demand from retail outlets, Ms. Colfelt said.
“Typically, they would have an off day here and an off day there,” she said. “They really had to rapidly increase production to keep grocery stores filled with product. That requires a workforce.”
The ABA has partnerships with organizations such as the National Restaurant Association and USO Pathfinder, which allow BakingWorks.org to reach transitioning services members entering the civilian workforce and people who might be out of work in the restaurant supply chain.
Unemployment brought on by government stay-at-home restrictions related to COVID-19 hit the restaurant industry especially hard. Foodservice and drinking places lost 5.5 million jobs in April, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Chicago-based Technomic in a “Top 500 chain restaurant report” released April 20 said initial forecasts call for overall sales to decrease by 12% to 17% this year.
The baking industry was dealing with a labor shortage before COVID-19 hit. In 2016 the ABA and the American Society of Baking commissioned a report, “The Workforce Gap in US Commercial Baking: Trends, Challenges and Solutions,” conducted by Cypress Associates. The report found 40% of baker respondents said there was a shortage of machine operators and 59% said there was a shortage of salaried engineering/maintenance employees.
Planning for BakingWorks.org began last year. The ABA’s board of directors approved it in the fall of 2019. BakingWorks.org also offers a library of career-development and resume-building tools as well as access to thousands of job and internship opportunities.