A workforce survey of its members by Scottish Bakers has revealed a skill shortage across the spectrum of bakery businesses in Scotland.

Commenting on the report, Scottish Bakers said: “Without a continued focus on upskilling existing staff and a concerted effort to bring in and train up new talent to secure the future of this skilled role, the sector could be at threat.”

Some of the key findings of the survey include:

  • 75% of Scotland’s bakers have had ‘hard to fill’ vacancies across their businesses
  • Of those who reported issues with the quality and availability of potential candidates for vacancies:
    • 75% put this down to a candidate’s lack of experience and poor motivation/attitude cited
    • 50% reported a lack of skills
    • 12% cited a lack of qualifications.

The lack of qualifications in candidates, Scottish Bakers explained, is not a huge issue to members, which suggests that the sector is happy to train motivated candidates up from within.

Scottish Bakers chief executive, Alasdair Smith said: “As we began to ease out of the harshest lockdown restrictions, we heard more and more about the recruitment challenges facing our members. In order to quantify the scale of this issue, we undertook a workforce survey of our members last month and the findings were revealing.”

Smith explained that the results showed the “grit and determination” of the sector at this time. He continued: “A sector that has weathered the storm, building back better, ready for growth and is now looking to invest in its existing people and indeed bring new talent in, but the applicants simply aren’t there.”

Smith highlighted the attention given to driver shortages in other industries, stating that the food sector, in particular the baking sector, was also feeling the employment “pinch.” He continued: “We need the government to focus its efforts on investing in and promoting the value of apprenticeships as a positive career path so the bakers of the future see this route to success clearly and feel confident to join our sector and reap the rewards.”

“A massive issue”

Scott Anderson, training and quality manager at National Food and Drink Training, the training arm of Scottish Bakers, said attracting talent is “a massive issue across the United Kingdom.”

He went on to say: “We need an education system that incorporates food and drink as a career choice into the psyche of school kids from an early age and this must be followed through at all stages of their education. Interventions by trade bodies and local business can help nurture new talent. But changing the teaching syllabus to incorporate aspects of food and drink manufacturing, along with work experience programmes to encourage youngsters to come and see the sector, could have a huge impact.”

Anderson added: “The one thing we all need is food and it’s an exciting sector to get into with amazing career opportunities; we just need to get that message out there to bring the best and the brightest in.”