Pro Tip: Structured training programs can help baking companies retain bakers and pass on institutional knowledge.

The baking industry employs almost 800,000 skilled individuals, generating more than $44 billion in direct wages, with an overall economic impact of more than $154 billion. The skills and knowledge required to be a good baker are often underestimated. While technology and machinery have replaced manual labor, trained bakers are crucial to a bakery’s day-to-day operation. Bakery training should include learning of the ingredients, including their functionality and how they interact with each other, as well as how to create a finished quality product with the proper shelf life.

Bakery training dates to the Roman era with knowledge passed from one generation to the next. As bakers retire, we lose their longitudinal and institutional knowledge, which can create a significant void. This generational shift combined with difficulties in attracting and retaining bakery workers is a major concern for the industry.

Many bakers begin their careers as apprentices or trainees, often requiring no specific formal qualifications. The career path begins with junior-level roles in manufacturing facilities or in-store bakeries, where on-the-job training is provided. 

In addition to the day-to-day onsite learning, employers should provide structured training programs to build bakery talent. This will allow consistency and quality across the organization. Today, there is a host of training options that employers can provide in addition to hands-on training, including interactive online programs, webinars and conferences.

My own journey began as an apprentice in France at age 15, where I was taught all aspects of preparing baked goods, including the technical skills of measuring and mixing ingredients as well as safety and industrial equipment operations. This hands-on training combined with formal education fully prepared me to take on multiple leadership roles in manufacturing, research and development in the industry sector.

Not only is skilled labor crucial to the baking industry but equally important is attracting and retaining talent. With global consumption of bakery products rising, there is an even greater need for investment in our young bakers.

Richard Charpentier is a classically trained French baker, CMB, holds a degree in baking science from Kansas State University, and is owner and chief executive officer of Baking Innovation. Connect with him on LinkedIn.