The baking industry has long struggled with an image and awareness problem when it comes to attracting and retaining workers. First, employees have been migrating away from manufacturing for decades as parents, guidance counselors and economic forces have pushed college and the tech industry as the surest path to career and economic success. Second, those in the workforce often don’t see manufacturing, including bakeries, as places to build long-lasting careers. And today’s younger workforce is looking for something more. 

“The mentality is different in the modern workforce than 10 to 20 years ago,” said Spiro Assimacopoulos, president and chief executive officer, The Good Bread Co., Taylor, Mich. “They want to understand the full path laid out ahead of them, and if the company can’t demonstrate a path to a better position or more compensation, then they won’t even take the job.”

The baking industry has provided many — some with limited educational backgrounds — with a path to support their families and build a fulfilling career. But there’s a gap in the current workforce between the experienced bakery operators retiring and those just starting out. As baking companies struggle to retain new hires, they are beginning to replace repetitive work with automation. This allows baking companies to offer additional value-added jobs that potential employees may find more fulfilling and provide a more obvious path forward to a long-term career. 

To do all of this, however, requires a substantial investment in training as well as workplace culture. 

“Getting this next generation of the workforce to believe in a career is a whole task in and of itself,” said Justin Spannuth, chief operating officer, Unique Snacks, Reading, Pa. “Companies are really starting to see the benefits of putting more into their culture besides simply higher compensation.”

This article is an excerpt from the April 2023 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on Workforce, click here.