AIB International’s Baking Specialist Online Collection – made up of nine online courses – is available through Alchemy Academy, an online training portal for food industry professionals.
The online baking courses enable restaurant, commercial and retail bakeries to provide staff with the fundamentals of baking production in an eLearning format.
The five core courses include Baker’s Math and Science, Bread Quality, Bread Manufacturing Process, Bread Troubleshooting and Function of Ingredients and range from two to four to six hours.
Specialty courses on pan breads, tortillas, hamburger buns and hearth breads are also available.
Courses can be purchased individually and taken at the learner’s convenience and pace.
Andre Biane, AIB president and CEO, said as more professional bakers are retiring the industry faces a significant knowledge gap.
“The eLearning courses deliver the knowledge and understanding that bakers need to drive higher productivity and reduce waste during production.”
ABA survey findings
Raj Shah, Alchemy’s chief strategy officer, said AIB has its own facility in Manhattan, Kansas where people will go and get practical training and baking.
“So they have been doing this training for a long time but when it came to do eLearning that wasn’t their speciality and they wanted to partner with us. It’s a first collaboration with them and we hope over time to do more things as we go forward," he told FoodQualityNews.
“It is up to whoever is wanting to take the course, whether it is a business or an individual, they come to the academy, understand what the course is about and they can enter their credit card information and they can take the courses. You don’t have to take an entire sequence of courses at one time so it’s easier financially and they can do it at their own time and convenience.”
An American Bakers Association (ABA) study in 2016 found the greatest workforce gap for commercial bakers is among hourly maintenance and engineering positions, with 78% reporting a ‘high’ or ‘severe’ shortage.
A total of 90% of companies said difficult working hours and shifts created a challenge in retaining employees.
It found 95% of the industry has moderate to severe challenges in making bakery manufacturing appealing to qualified candidates.
Finding, developing and retaining talented staff
Shah said the challenge for commercial bakeries is to get talent with the low unemployment rate and then developing and retaining them.
“In the past, people would come in you would stand next to the guy and learn the business, if you will. But the baking industry is getting more sophisticated, you have more things to worry about in terms of quality, allergens, packaging and all these elements are getting more complicated.
“So you have to have consistency in how you train – you can’t just say stand next to this person for a week and you’ll figure it out, it doesn’t work anymore. Especially as equipment is getting more complicated too.
“The baking industry is finding out it needs to put more formal programs in place but sending people to three or four days of on-site training gets more and more expensive. So, eLearning is a good initial way to get people started, it doesn’t replace the other stuff but it gives them the foundational level.
“It is like a pre-requisite, you take these e-learning courses, you get the basic concepts down and then you take more practical training or you go and work as an associate with someone on the line and you know the foundations of why you are doing what you are doing.”
The what and the why
Shah said the baking industry is also trying to create clear career tracks for bakers.
“Because if you don’t show there is a clear path for baking and as a baking organisation you are investing in your associates, entry-level workers, they may leave after a few months or years. As an industry you have to develop your people so they see a long term play and not just work for a few months and then move onto something else,” he said.
“So how do you create a clear track? This is one of the ways to show you are investing in them, in terms of resources and learning. If you think about millennial workers, one of the key things we found from research we and others have done is they don’t just want to know what they need to do but why they need to do it.
“It is really hard when you are on a production line and the bread is moving so fast to ask your colleague why you are doing this and they themselves might not know. A lot of these e-learning courses help you figure out the ‘why’s’ so when you are doing the ‘what’s’ later on you understand why it is so important because if you don’t do it right a kid with a peanut allergy may get hurt.”