What’s it all about then?
As a Bakery Operative you’ll be working in a large scale plant bakery making lots of different types of bread, cakes and other related products.
You’ll use large scale machines and production lines to make large batches of products which will then be sold and distributed to supermarkets, shops and other wholesale customers.
Most of the bread we eat is produced in large scale bakeries.
What might I be doing?
There are loads of different bakeries making lots of different products so the exact nature of what you’ll be doing could vary, but is likely to include some or all of the following:
- Accurately weighing out and preparing ingredients for mixing
- Mixing, dividing and shaping dough prior to proving
- Setting temperatures and cooking times for different products
- Baking various types of bread and other bakery products in large batches
- Using modern machinery and technology throughout the process
- Part-baking and freezing produce
- Wrapping, slicing, and packaging bread products
- Decorating, slicing and wrapping finished products
- Cleaning machinery and work station
What will be expected of me?
As well as being someone who enjoys a practical job, you’ll likely have some creative skills.
You’re going to have to be physically fit as there is very likely to be some lifting and hauling involved with the job of bakery operative.
You’ll need to be able to read and understand labels and instructions and also have a decent level of arithmetic so you can calculate weights and measures, cooking and cooling times etc.
You must have enough knowledge of IT systems to allow you to programme the complicated machinery that is required in a modern plant bakery.
As part of a larger production team this is a job for someone who can work effectively with other people in a well organised manner, and who can communicate fluently as needed.
Like every other factory a bakery can be a dangerous place for the unwary so you will be expected to demonstrate that you can work safely and in accordance with company hygiene rules at all times.
What can I expect?
In line with many other operative jobs you can expect to work an average of 39 hours per week, although you may have to start very early in the morning or work shifts to cover 24 hour production cycles.
On the factory floor you’ll have to wear protective clothing which may include ear protection and, as you might expect, conditions may be hot and dusty, although air conditioning is the norm.
Although much of the work is now automated you may still be expected to do a degree of lifting so be ready for this as well.
What about the pay?
The income you’ll get will depend on how much experience you have but you could expect to earn between £13,000 and £19,000 per year.
If you receive paid overtime then this will obviously rise further.
As you gain experience and skills or promotion to supervisor or manager this could rise to anywhere from £20,000 to £25,000 per year.
Production managers can earn up to £40,000 per year.
Please remember these figures are for your guidance only and will vary from place to place.
What qualifications do I need to get in?
There are many vacancies reported in plant bakeries and, whilst an operative job may require no specific qualifications, you will find that good GCSEs (i.e. grade C and above) will prove very helpful. Local bakeries often employ young people with good prospects as apprentices, meaning that most of your learning is on the job and you’re earning a wage from day one. The practical nature of this type of learning is extremely important within the bakery environment.
For more specialised or craft bakery roles, completing a vocational or degree course in a bakery discipline will prove useful for you.
Where would I get these qualifications?
Post GCSE qualifications are available in many local FE Colleges and you should check out their online prospectuses for further information.
For instance you could consider the C&G level 2 Diploma in Proficiency in Baking Industry Skills and after completion, a level 3 Diploma.
What about further training?
You will find that your bakery employer will want to train you up to become an expert at your trade – you’ll likely receive basic level Health & Safety and Food Safety training during your induction period.
After that there are numerous courses that you can take which will enable you to excel at your work – for instance, the Federation of Bakers runs courses like Principles of Plant Baking and Introduction to Plant Baking – these short courses provide an ideal starting point to enhance your qualifications and skills levels.
You could also study for the qualifications mentioned above on a part time basis.
If you want to specialise then it is particularly important that you familiarise yourself with the specific content of courses in which you are interested.
For higher level qualifications you might want to consider Foundation Degrees or Honours Degrees which are relevant to the bakery industry– check University prospectuses for availability.
Anything else I might need to know?
Yes, there is a large range of bakery products in the UK, many of which are unique to a particular region.
So you could be doing the same sort of work but making different products depending on the region where you work!