‘This is bad for business’: Scottish Bakers angry over ‘inexcusable delay’ in Government’s apprenticeship funding

By Gill Hyslop

- Last updated on GMT

Scottish Bakers is angry about the Government's delay in confirming new apprenticeship funding; yet another hurdle in 'one of the toughest trading years in memory'. Pic: GettyImages
Scottish Bakers is angry about the Government's delay in confirming new apprenticeship funding; yet another hurdle in 'one of the toughest trading years in memory'. Pic: GettyImages

Related tags Scottish Bakers Apprenticeship Scottish government

CEO Alasdair Smith has strong words for the Scottish Government over its delay in confirming funding for new apprenticeship starts, calling it ‘inexcusable and ‘bad for business’. More worryingly, he is concerned it could signal a withdrawal of vital support.

Scottish Bakers is a major independent provider of apprenticeships to Scotland’s food and drink manufacturing industry.

It is an expert in delivering industry-standard training through its specialist training arm, National Food and Drink Training (NFDT).

It also works with the sector to deliver practical skills in businesses of all sizes, such as its January 2023 announcement that it has partnered with Tesco to run apprenticeship training in the retailer’s instore bakeries.

These efforts are underpinned by Scottish Bakers’ ‘for the good of all’ mission to make the baking industry more competitive and sustainable through skills and development of staff.

“Our firm belief is that staff training and development is good for businesses and creates great career paths for individuals enriching the industry as a whole.

“The bakery sector alone delivers more than £1 billion to the Scottish economy and employs around 12,000 people, often in rural locations. The wider food and drink sector delivers considerably more,”​ said Smith, confirming the association has written to the Scottish Government to express its dismay.

He added Scottish Bakers had received early confirmation of 481 places for registration during 2023/24.

“We worked hard, accordingly, with employers across the baking and wider food and drink sector to identify 85 new starts at this time of writing (45 due to commence in April with 40 to commence in May).

“Because of the inexcusable delay in confirmation of funding, we are unable to move on these learners: this is bad for them [and] it is bad for business.”

Investing in people

Bakery apprenticeships andresr
Pic: GettyImages

In an earlier comment, Smith said, “A major part factor in business growth is attracting new talent in and retaining those skills through their ongoing development.

“Apprenticeship training helps businesses become more productive and efficient by upskilling their new and existing workforce and delivers other benefits like reduced wastage, lower staff turnover and higher output.”

Smith said the delay also “has a potentially devastating impact on our operations as a training provider.”

NFDT has been delivering apprenticeship courses to UK and Scottish companies for over 20 years. Courses can be tailored to meet specific company needs, but all have been proven to provide benefits to productivity, quality and efficiency as well as recruitment and retention of staff.

Smith said investing in people – both new and those already in the workforce – is more vital than ever before.

“Businesses across the food and drink sector have endured one of the toughest trading years in memory last year with soaring energy and commodity costs. The volume of learners put forward to commence training reflects an improving level of confidence, which will quickly dissipate if we must delay registration.”

Most disconcertingly, Smith voiced the association’s concern this hold-up could signal a withdrawal of support from the Government.

“We are deeply concerned that this delay will also be used as an excuse to cut our contract volume for the year.

“We would be unable to withstand such an impact on our businesses finances and would have to evaluate our staffing requirement.

Support our sector - support the economy

Sad baker ljubaphoto
Pic: GettyImages

Scottish Bakers is calling for immediate action.

“Without action, our ability to preserve and pass on valuable craft and production skills will be compromised and countless business and apprentices will lose out,”​ said Smith.

“We therefore urge the Government to confirm funding without delay to help support our economy.”

Scottish Bakers has been supporting Scotland's bakery trade for more than 130 years. Its core purpose is to promote and protect the interests of the trade; representing, advising and supporting all aspects of the industry to ensure it remains competitive and equipped for growth.

It does this by providing a raft of services to help its members sustain and grow their businesses, including skills development; technical information and assistance; sector intelligence; legal advice; financial discounts; and social and business networking. It also celebrates excellence in the sector through the Scottish Baker of the Year and World Championship Scotch Pie Awards.

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