Attracting and retaining apprentices in Australian bakeries

6th February 2017 Small Business Apprenticeships

artisinal queensland bakery

The Australian baking industry is projected to grow in the next five years through to 2021, to reach a minimum of $807.6 million per annum.  And while this is by no means a phenomenal rate of growth, it nevertheless calls for an uptake of fresh talent within the industry – especially with the current 14,000 bakers nationwide being short of what is needed to meet this demand.

With the right level of investment in the training of this next generation, bakeries of all sizes could take ownership of the health logic, food trends and cultural shifts that are going to influence customers.

The complication here is the attaining and retaining of the new talent. The number of younger people entering into and staying in the field has not kept pace with the industry’s growth (the National Centre for Vocational Education research reports a 19.4% drop). One of the clearest signs of the skills shortage is the addition of the broader hospitality industry to the top of the national Skills Need List.

To help us better understand we spoke to the leading trainer in baking at TAFE Queensland, Michael Wheeler, who has provided us his expertise.

What You Should Look For

Michael says, ”There is a saying that you can teach someone skills but not attitude; someone who has a strong work ethic and is looking for a career in the baking industry.” This logic is supported by Employing Apprentices Australia, who make it abundantly clear that any apprentice you select mirrors your ideals for staff:

  • dedication
  • passion
  • focus
  • a willingness to learn.

You will also need to consider the current needs of your business, expected growth, capacity to deliver training, and budget prior to selecting your apprentice.

How to Attract Apprentices

There is a bittersweet irony to be found in that the smaller number of new entrants into cookery and baking is actually yielding a higher level of quality – with only those who are truly passionate entering into and committing to careers in the industry. This creates a question around how to attract people from this cohort or even those curious ones beyond it.

Michal told us that you need to, “build your reputation and to sell the benefits of living out a career in the industry.”

In other words, you need to clearly present yourself as a worthwhile business and employer – the perfect fit for someone looking to launch themselves to the top of the baking field. In addition to and aside from this, you can talk to your preferred training provider to connect you with apprentices.

What Apprentices Want

A positive start

An apprentice needs to clearly see that their time on the job will be a positive start to their fledgling career. In effect, this is their taste test of what is to come – both in terms of challenges and opportunities. The routine and training you deliver will help them become the baking professional both you and the industry need.

Furthermore, by building them up as a solid professional in the field they will be able to see the benefits of choosing the tried and tested method of career development. NCVER research suggests that those apprentices who can see this are far more likely to a) complete their training, and b) remain in the industry.

Skills Diversity

While you will be naturally aiming to train your apprentices to have a skill set that meets your unique needs, a broader diversity of skills is what they will want and expect. This lure/promise helps them perceive a clear future in the industry, in your employ or that of another bakery.

As stated by Hospitality Magazine, new innovations and technology should be embraced by all in food and hospitality. Whether it is in the service space, or in our context the baking field, it is vital that you seize the opportunity to evolve your business – this includes the technology you train your apprentices on and with.


While you may not want to encourage them to leave your business or to deviate away from being a baker, it is important to also remind apprentices of the opportunities provided by completing their training. Michael says, “There are great opportunities to travel around Australia or the world once they have their qualifications and a little bit of experience. There are even careers to be sought in management, training or sales”

What is the process

Michael says, “the process is simple and becomes even easier with each apprentice you take on”.

In his mind, the process is as follows:

  1. Recruit the right person

Follow what we outlined in terms of attracting and selecting the right apprentice for your business.

  1. Complete the training contract

After you and the apprentice agree to enter into an apprenticeship, a training contract needs to be completed.

Any AAC (Australian Apprenticeship Centre) can assist you with completing the form.

AAC’s provide a free service to help businesses with the commencement of apprenticeships by providing general information and assessing eligibility for government incentives.

  1. Select your Registered Training Organisation (RTO)

Once your RTO receives notification that the AAC has signed the training contract, they can then:

Develop the training plan

Deliver the training

Assess the skills taught

Issue the qualification upon completion

If you need any advice on selecting or training an apprentice, Michael Wheeler and the TAFE Queensland Brisbane training team can help you grow your business and your industry with fresh, skilled talent.

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