Jobs for the boys

first_imgWhile many bakers scrabble around to find suitable staff amid a national skills shortage, there is one firm with a human resources structure so successful that it is finding it tricky to accommodate new blood. Bakery supplier Macphie claims to have the lowest staff turnover in the industry and the average age of its workforce isn’t high. So it decided to go down the Modern Apprenticeship (MA) route.With many college-based bakery courses cut because of funding restraints, Macphie opted to take on two apprentices: Adam Storey, 17, and Douglas Kidston, 18.Future benefits”Colleges aren’t delivering food technology or baking the way they used to, so we worked with the Scottish Association of Master Bakers (SAMB) and decided to take on additional people with a view to the future,” explains Sylvia Halkerston, director of human resources at Macphie.Halkerston believes MAs give the widest grounding in technical, supervisory and communication skills available to employers. But it is far removed from traditional bakery apprenticeships, she stresses. “It involves a whole load of elements that are above and beyond the traditional bakery apprenticeship,” says Halkerston. MAs are available across every industry sector, with common elements for assessment such as health and safety. The bulk of MA training is on the job with comprehensive monitoring by a third party, such as by the SAMB.According to the SAMB, there are 350 craft bakeries in Scotland with 12,500 people employed in the industry, 40% of which are bakers. Halkerston, who sits on the board of sector skills council Improve, says work is continuing into a skills need analysis, both north and south of the Scottish border, for future training needs. “There has been a lot of progress made towards the national skills academies and I’m delighted to say that the SAMB is part of that because it has set up its own skills academy already.”The benefits of a good human resources policy is demonstrated at Macphie’s chilled and frozen plant in Glasgow, which it bought from Oakwood Foods in 2000. At the time it had in excess of 90% staff turnover, but in six years that figure has been slashed to less than 1%. “This illustrates what happens when you give your staff clear opportunities and a commitment to training and development,” says Halkerston. “I truly believe people don’t arrive in the morning wanting to do a bad job. When they have the right knowledge and skills they want to achieve more.”Macphie, which has a £37m turnover, says staff development should be integral to management structure rather than setting a separate box of cash aside for training. Putting a figure on Macphie’s training budget would therefore be “totally misleading,” she says.”I get very annoyed with employers who say they can’t afford to train – my view is they can’t afford not to. In some organisations quality standards and training are an add-on. An awful lot of discussion goes into capital expenditure on a piece of kit, but the highest cost to any company is its people. Other companies might outsource 60% of their training but we have reduced training costs year on year, and without subsidies. We have a learning centre, with high quality in-house training and we can also bring in external trainers.”training for allIn fact, every one of Macphie’s staff is undergoing development of some sort. But elsewhere in the industry, some of the best skilled individuals won’t see themselves as trainers and are in danger of not passing on those skills, she says.Now the firm plans to develop MAs further as a means of recruiting and introducing the scheme to existing employees. The other apprentices that Macphie put through the scheme – 20 completed and four ongoing – are across a range of disciplines and age groups. A great example of how the scheme can work is the story of a part-time cleaner at the company that has now qualified as a scientist in the quality department. n—-=== Course notes ===The Modern Apprenticeship course runs for four years, starting with Bakery SVQ Level 2 for two years, which introduces dough production, flour confectionery, bakery distribution, bakery retail and service. Apprentices progress onto Bakery SVQ Level 3 for two years, which includes new product development. Progress can be quicker depending on how well the student adapts. An SAMB assessor routinely observes the apprentices on the job, tests their knowledge and judges their competencies against national standards.SAMB assessor Alexis Malcolmson says: “The SVQ at Level 3 is a management toolkit, which will enable Macphie’s Douglas and Adam to meet the challenges they will encounter. They’ll gain a clear understanding of hygiene, health and safety, working with others and monitoring work performance. The Level 3 class is not only about maintaining processes but reviewing and enhancing them. Modern Apprentices should be challenged both in the workplace and with their training programme.”Six months into the course, Adam Storey, 17, says: “I had an interest in food so this takes me to the next step.”last_img read more


first_img“The biggest challenge in 2007 by far, was prices.” Not my words but those of Peter Williams, bakery director of that excellent business Simmons of Hatfield (pg 13). And they are words that continue to be echoed across this issue and the whole industry.Despite the challenges, Simmons aims to open its 30th shop in March. How come it is among those thriving, not merely surviving? It put its prices up twice last year! And if your company did not, please take stock.I was rather alarmed last week when Carrs Milling put out a statement saying “further price increases would be dictated by whether bakers were successful in getting further bread price increases”. Frankly, there is no choice. If flour and commodities go up, then those who pass on the rises survive, others get taken over or go under.If you are not your company’s best negotiator, please delegate to someone who is. We all have different talents. You might be a brilliant MD, bakery owner or financial wizard. But if you are not a trained negotiator who can talk to the multiples and bakers about price rises in one breath and new products in the other, backed up with plenty of market information, it will prove nigh impossible to get the increases through. The supermarkets in particular are tough negotiators and trained to drive down prices.Most high street bakers I have come across have achieved the price rises with no problems. I popped into De Gustibus bakery the other day by London Bridge and there was a notice in the window explaining why prices had risen again. But business is doing very well, just like Simmons.Our lead story this week on world bread prices, with data provided exclusively to British Baker by the Economist Intelligence Unit, shows that although UK prices are creeping up, helped enormously in my opinion by the popularity of ’artisan’ breads as well as price increases, London is still number 70 in the world and Manchester 93rd.Travel has introduced us to wraps and rye-based breads, which can only benefit the category. But if you want imaginative sandwich fillings, check out our feature on page 16. And do read the controversial comment on folic acid by the Soil Association (pg 8) and let us have your views.last_img read more

Do you dare to dunk?

first_imgOk, we’ve not run the rule over the data or peer-reviewed the findings, but we’re still happy to give light to research that states that some 25 million Britons have suffered biscuit injuries.The dubious claim made by Mindlab International, which devised the Biscuit Injury Threat Evaluation method, stated that a third of adults had suffered dunking-related scalding, a quarter had choked on crumbs and one in ten had damaged their teeth on a biscuit. If that’s not bad enough, the shocking litany of injuries includes biscuit tins dropped on feet, falling off chairs reaching for a biccie, and poking yourself in the eye. In fact, 500 victims have required hospital treatment.Mindlab assessed the ’dunkability’ and ’crumb dispersal’ of 15 biscuits for biscuit brand Rocky. Mathematicians cross-referenced these findings with research data and a nationwide survey of 1,000 adults. The lesson learned? Choose the custard cream from the biscuit assortment at your peril.last_img read more

Wheat quality up, but questions raised over supplies

first_imgThe improved quality of harvested wheat crops this year could have implications for UK supply and demand balance, with potentially less availability for millers, according to the HGCA’s latest cereals report.In the final Cereal Quality Survey of 2009, the HGCA revealed that British wheat and barley crops have been better quality this year. However, this compares to a poor season in 2008. The results should also be placed in the context of large carryover stocks, of unclear quality, totalling around three million tonnes, according to the HGCA.Michael Archer, HGCA senior cereals and oilseeds analyst, explained: “Although quality has improved, it must be remembered this is in comparison to a very poor season in 2008. Longer-term averages suggest 2009 quality is only a little above normal.”He told British Baker that the implications around supply and demand will mainly surround the availability of wheat and barley to millers, maltsters and exporters. “There are a lot of questions on exactly what the impact will be, but we are potentially looking at a higher proportion of the crop meeting the quality requirements of millers, for example,” said Archer. “However, even though it is a higher-quality crop, there is also less of it. How much millers will use will depend on how much of the new crop they can get their hands on, how much they stored from last year and also how much they import.”The final results for wheat have shown a lower moisture content, higher Hagberg Falling Number, higher specific weight and higher protein compared to 2008. The barley results revealed a lower moisture content, higher nitrogen content and higher specific weight.The survey was based on 61,000 samples of wheat and 30,000 samples of barley collected from laboratories around Great Britain.last_img read more

Muntons invests £500k in Centre of Excellence

first_imgMuntons has unveiled plans to open a £500,000 Centre for Excellence, at it headquarters in Stowmarket, in January 2010.The investment, which includes a purpose-built factory, will become the focal point for the firm innovation and new product development.The Centre will feature an NPD kitchen, sensory testing room, bakery, micro-brewery and winery, and will enable the firm to reduce the cost of NPD while getting products to market faster.Muntons’ technical sales support manager Jonathan Pritchard said The Centre would greatly improve the firm’s ability to develop new products and grow its business.“We will be able to produce development samples internally at lab scale, rather than relying on third party or full-scale plant trials, which means we can cut turnaround time of NPD projects significantly,” he added.last_img read more

In my world

first_imgUmer Ashraf is a young entrepreneur who owns the Glasgow-based iCafé chain of shops, as well as smoothie and juice bar Paradise Bay, in Oban, ScotlandSpending hours in front of a computer screen analysing spreadsheets and comparing the slow growth this year to that of last year is no fun, especially while being on the phone spending even more time trying to get electricity back on for new premises we just acquired. This is exactly what I have been doing for the past two weeks.Firstly, I have been comparing the first quarter of 2009 figures to the first quarter of this year and have seen a dip in sales of 15%. However, our spending was cut by 18%, which puts us in a rather healthy position, despite the slight dip in sales. The way we achieved that was by following the classic saying “cut the fat, not the muscle”. A method that works very well for me is to start with an A4 paper, write down all the extra-curricular things we are spending on, then reduce the total by 10%, taking the least essential things out of the list. Once we have a new list, we take out another 10%. This gives us an insight into all the things that are good to have, but are not essential.Why did we just acquire new premises? Well, I have always had plans to have a central kitchen for our operation, so we have one point of control for the whole operation. Our fourth store is an ’iCafé Espressed’ store, which will incorporate a central kitchen for the chain. This way we are able to maintain a high-quality, speedy service at every store and also have more controls in all spheres of the business.The challenge on my hands just now is to get the electricity back on. We took a tenancy on a property with a ’de-energised’ meter. After phoning around for days, I discovered that the previous tenant had some unpaid debt and, as a result, npower de-energised the meter. Of course, we all know from our experiences that a change of tenancy form, faxed over with a copy of your lease, solves the issue. But just like the banks, the utilities sector has become very strict. The banks aren’t lending, the utilities companies are exactly the same they are not helping. Even though we have the proper paperwork in place, no utility company will touch a ’de-energised’ meter and we were stuck with premises with no electricity. After spending days on the phone calling one company after another, I finally gave up and raised a complaint with the Consumer Watchdog, who advised me to try Opus Energy. After speaking to Opus, we will be reconnected, but at a cost of a £400 fee and £5,000 security deposit. Now, bearing in mind that the premises we’re moving into is only a 500sq ft unit, this is a lot of money! Unfortunately, we do not have any other choice but to go with this option as npower which de-energised it, was the previous supplier and should, in an ideal world, re-energise it simply said “No”. They had a problem with the premises before and were “not willing to supply again”.We get reconnected on 10 May and we can eventually start with our fit-out of the kitchen and the café soon after, even though this is six weeks after our initial arrangement very disappointing!The moral of the story? Make sure that if you are signing a lease, you put a clause in stating that it is the landlord’s responsibility to ensure all utilities are in place or at least connected. You should also make sure that the premises are fit for the purpose intended. We all find ourselves in a real hurry when trying to open a new store either in excitement or just to meet deadlines but it’s best to take your time and do the legal part of the process properly. This will save you money, time and hassle later.The lesson for me is to do the deal myself next time and not leave it to one of my staff, who was new to negotiating deals. He did not check that the premises had no electricity; but, as they say, it’s never a mistake, always feedback.last_img read more

Paice calls for improvements to origin labelling

first_imgFood minister Jim Paice has called on food businesses to voluntarily do more to improve country-of-origin labelling.While on a recent visit to Melton Mowbray, home of the Melton Mowbray Pork Pie, Paice said he wanted to see improved country-of-origin labelling, particularly in products where confusion can most easily occur, such as meat and dairy.“Some good work is already happening – for example the voluntary agreement agreed recently by the pig meat industry. Individual products, such as Sainsbury’s Steak and Cornish Ale Pasty and Asda Chicken Puff Pastry Pie, have also been singled out as products which show clearly that the meat is British, and the product is made in Britain,” said Paice. In response to the announcement by the food minister, Which? chief executive Peter Vicary-Smith said it was delighted to see the government putting pressure on food manufacturers and retailers now, rather than waiting for a decision from the EU.“Ultimately, we want it to be mandatory for food companies to provide clear information about the origin of key ingredients, so that wherever consumers are shopping, they can see where their food comes from,” added Vicary-Smith.Paice said it was a priority for the government to ensure that food labelling was as clear as it could be. “I’m therefore calling on the industry to work with us to ensure that people can be confident about the origin of the products they buy.”The EU is currently considering new rules on country-of-origin labelling and, while Defra said it would prefer industry to respond voluntarily to consumer demands for improved labelling, it said it would also be pressing for the option of compulsion to be kept open.>>Foods Standards Agency stripped of nutrition and labelling>>EU rejects traffic light food labellinglast_img read more

A ruling on benefits

first_imgThe European Court of Justice has been looking at benefits provided to employees under salary sacrifice schemes.In a recent case, employer Astra Zeneca offered a food benefits scheme, under which the employees could choose from a range of selected benefits, each of which resulted in a deduction from his or her normal salary. Retail vouchers were one of the benefits.The firm claimed reimbursement from HMRC of the input VAT incurred when buying the vouchers, but HMRC rejected its claim, and the EU Court agreed that the employer must pay VAT in respect of the vouchers if/when they are supplied to its employees the salary sacrificed is regarded as payment for the vouchers.This should result in a nil VAT burden for employers, where they simply pass on to staff the cost of the vouchers, including VAT, but clearly makes the vouchers a less attractive option.last_img read more

Search underway in Elkhart County for sex offender who failed to register

first_img Google+ By Jon Zimney – February 21, 2020 0 232 (Photo supplied) Elkhart County authorities are asking for help in finding a man who investigators say failed to register as a sex offender.He’s identified as Salvador Torres.Torres is 29-years-old and described as 5-feet-6-inches tall, 150 pounds, with black hair and brown eyes. He may be in the Goshen area.Anybody with information about his whereabouts is asked to contact the Elkhart County Sheriff’s Office at (574) 533-4151. WhatsApp Facebook Twitter Twitter WhatsApp Pinterest Facebook Google+ Search underway in Elkhart County for sex offender who failed to register Pinterest IndianaLocalNews Previous articleDriver seriously injured after metal hit windshield on Indiana Toll RoadNext articleDirector of St. Joseph County Parks retiring Jon ZimneyJon Zimney is the News and Programming Director for News/Talk 95.3 Michiana’s News Channel and host of the Fries With That podcast. Follow him on Twitter @jzimney.last_img read more