WASHINGTON, DC — As companies struggle to fill their workforce needs, it helps to find different approaches to the problem. That was the message at a workforce discussion at the 2023 Bakers Fly-In and Policy Summit, held Nov. 13-15 in Washington, DC.

 The fly-in, sponsored by the American Bakers Association, the American Society of Baking and the Retail Bakers of America, provides educational sessions as well as meetings for bakers and other industry professionals on Capitol Hill to promote and advocate for the industry.

 Speakers on the workforce solutions panel talked about how their companies are working to find employees for their bakeries and others who talked about programs and businesses that serve certain demographics, including veterans, immigrants and others.

 “The biggest thing we’ve done this year as opposed to previous years is really looking at a nontraditional approach of serving underserved populations,” said Jennifer Stiles, director of human resources, H&S Family of Bakeries, Baltimore. “There are huge areas and certain demographics of people who really do want to stay and work.”

 For instance, they are working with people coming out of prison and people with disabilities. The company is also working to develop its own pool of talent in engineering to help fill a critical need. 

 DeAngelo Gamble, director of Bakery Operations, Dog Tag Bakery, Washington, DC, talked about the company’s fellowship training program for veterans. It provides bakery and business skills training.

 “We partner with universities so those finishing the program get a certificate of business administration,” he said. “In that aspect, I think we’re attacking two very significant areas. We are creating jobs from an entrepreneurship point of view but empowering them to hire other veterans as well.”

 Amie Smith, pastry chef and owner, Amie’s Bakery, Osterville, Mass., which employs about 35 people, has found a variety of ways to attract new talent to her business.

 “The way that I’ve had to get creative for finding help… is through programs like internships, for example with Johnson & Wales culinary school,” she said.

 Her bakery provides classes to people interested in furthering their skills. She noticed the talent of one of the women in her class, who had previously decorated cakes, which is a position she needed to fill.

 “When you spot talent, you really want to latch onto that,” she added.

 Chris Richardson, general counsel and chief operating officer, BDV Solutions, explained how his company leverages immigration to solve labor problems.

 “Companies need to think innovatively about the future,” he said. “Everywhere in the world right now, people are fighting for labor. People in the country right now are on student visas and different types of visas. We find ourselves being a matchmaker.”

 The company matches immigrants and companies. And because hiring immigrants can be a cumbersome process, his company helps employers and employees work through it. And often when companies invest in people, the people become invested in the companies and want to stay and grow with them, he explained. 

 “We really focus on how to make this relationship work,” he said.

 The panel talked about the importance of providing a culture where workers can thrive, regardless of cultural differences or if they have disabilities that may need accommodations. 

 “The companies we see that are successful are the ones who invest in the culture, really invest in diversity,” Mr. Richardson said.

 Mr. Gamble said his company provides wellness programs like yoga or meditation for veterans.

 Ms. Stiles said her company works to create a sense of belonging for all kinds of people.

 "It’s a multi-pronged attack,” she explained. “On the inclusivity side, we really focus on meeting our diverse workforce where they’re at, providing training in their native language when possible. We speak a variety of different languages.”