Earning a daily crust

As a baker, you would use a range of methods to produce bread and confectionery products, such as cakes, pastries and biscuits.

You would usually work in one of three types of bakery: plant, in-store or craft.

In a plant bakery, you would use machinery and production lines to manufacture large amounts of baked goods for shops, supermarkets and other major consumers.

As an in-store baker, with a supermarket for example, you would use some automated machinery to make fresh bread products to be sold in the store.

In a craft bakery, you would create products on a smaller scale to be sold in a shop, delicatessen or chain of specialist shops.

This work would be more varied and although some machinery is used, you would carry out much of the work by hand.

You would usually work 39 hours a week over five days, with very early starts.

Plant bakeries usually operate shifts on a rota system, which will include nights and weekends.

As an in-store or craft baker you would also be expected to cover weekends.

The work involves a lot of standing, lifting and carrying trays and heavy sacks of flour, although lifting equipment is widely used.

Bakeries are noisy and dusty. If you have asthma, an allergy to dust, or certain skin conditions, you may find this kind of work unsuitable. There are strict health, safety and hygiene requirements and you will usually be supplied with protective clothing, such as hats and overalls.

Bakers can earn between £11,600 and £16,000 a year. With experience, specialist skills or supervisory responsibilities this could rise to £25,000.

Additional payments may be made for working overtime or shifts.

You can apply for work as a trainee in a bakery without any specific qualifications. However, GCSEs in English, maths, science or food technology would be an advantage.You may be able to get into this job through an apprenticeship scheme. The range of apprenticeships available in your area will depend on the local jobs market and the types of skills employers need from their workers.

You will usually receive on-the-job training, and you may also be encouraged to take a course in food safety and food hygiene such as those awarded by the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) and Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH).

As a plant baker, you may find it useful to take a short introductory course to plant bakery run by the Federation of Bakers. As a craft baker, you could work towards a Level 2 Certificate or Level 3 Diploma for Pastry Chefs and Patissiers, awarded by the ABC exam board.

Whichever setting you work in, you may be able to take NVQ levels 1, 2, or 3 in Food Manufacture, specialising in craft bakery skills or process bakery skills.

With further training, you may have the opportunity to go into teaching baking skills in a college or training centre.

Among the skills and knowledge you could need to help secure a baking job are:

l a passion for food

l good number skills for measuring ingredients, ordering supplies and calculating cooking times

l practical baking skills

l creativity for developing new products or decorating confectionery

l the ability to work under pressure

l good organisational skills

l an awareness of safety and hygiene regulations

l a reasonable level of physical fitness for lifting and carrying heavy trays and sacks of flour

l good teamworking skills.

With experience you could progress to bakery supervisor, chargehand or production manager. You may need to relocate to gain experience and promotion.

If you have experience as an in-store or plant baker, you may be able to move into working for a flour-mill or bakery equipment company as a sales representative, technical adviser or as a test baker, developing different baking techniques.