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WYSD 2021: Upskilling bakers for efficiency, productivity and profitability

The productivity level of the active segment of a population is critical to raising the gross domestic rating of any nation. But productivity is a function of a wider skill development effort and the optimal utilization of available human and mineral resources.

Globally, the pandemic has thrown a curveball in the way of previous skill development efforts. As economies slumped, and as household support frameworks shattered with businesses pivoting to survive, more members of the global workforce were rendered redundant or outrightly irrelevant by the digital intrusion, mechanized industrial processes and the recourse to tighter public-private spending. The World Youth Skills Day (WYSD) 2021, which is being commemorated this Thursday, July 15, strategically emphasizes the role of skill development in adapting to the completely transformed socio-economic environment as a result of the viral outbreak.

Themed “Reimagining Youth Skills Post-Pandemic”, the WYSD set the tone for a skill renewal focus to build a youth ecosystem that can adapt quickly to the divergent transformation that is taking place in the fast-paced post-pandemic environments. This adaptive focus is as relevant to workplace employees as it is to artisans and entrepreneurs of different levels.

Nigeria, a country with a sprawling population that comprises over 70 million youth and a mounting unemployment challenge, will need to implement a bold skill development programme to up-skill the active population segment. This is imperative if the country is to overturn emerging socioeconomic issues concerning the youth unemployment position.

Crown Flour Mill Limited (CFM), manufacturers of Mama Gold flour, in consultation with bakers has stepped forward with a bold skillset development programme. The company has been able to identify skill and knowledge gaps amongst artisanal bakers that would have to be closed to enhance the performance of players in the baking industry.

The baking industry comprises a strong network of economic enablers due to the position of bakers in making the all-important staple food, bread, available to the growing Nigerian population.

Working with this artisanal group has an overriding impact on the post-pandemic economic recovery bid of the country. This is because bakers produce 10 million loaves daily while engaging the services of thousands of bakery workers, logistic staff, and a thriving base of hawkers across the nation to deliver the flour-based food to the last mile.

Therefore, every effort made to empower participants in the bread production value chain would have a ripple effect on other segments of the economy.

Meanwhile, many local bakers operate the non-mechanized production line. This presents a productivity disadvantage. It also puts the small scale, local bakers, in a tight position as the large competitors which operate mechanized production lines easily push small-scale bakers to the fringe of the market. If the larger competitors continue to succeed in gobbling these small-scale competitors which make up a larger percentage of the job-creating hubs in the industry, the current national unemployment situation could be escalated further.

The harsh global economy and current realities is challenging enough; having more businesses close down would erupt into a needless downward spiral. This is not a good position for any country, let alone a thickly populated and diversified nation as Nigeria.

CFM Baking School which started operations in Abuja in 2018 is intensifying efforts to assist both large and small scale bakery businesses to adapt and mechanize operations where they lag behind counterparts in the more advanced countries of the world.

In August 2020, the flour milling firm opened a branch of the baking school in Apapa, Lagos state, to cater to the Lagos and South-West bakers. The company has since launched other CFM baking schools in Ilorin, Calabar, Port Harcourt, Warri and Kano to cater for bakers within these regions.

The baking school does not only offer bakers the opportunity of acquiring technical baking skillsets, it also teaches bakers how to run their bakery business profitably.

How does the baking school operate at a curricular level? The baking school curriculum is divided into classroom modules and practical modules. The classroom module covers topics such as Understanding Wheat, the Milling Process, and Quality Processes in Wheat Milling, Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP), Food Safety, Hygiene Practice, Baking Ingredients and their Functions, Bakery Equipment, the Science of Bread Baking, Sales Management, Accounting Practice, Calculating Small Bakery Earnings and Bakery Process Tracking.

The practical module covers topics that include the Baking Process, Recipe Formulation, Faults, Solutions and Trouble Shooting as well as Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).

Participants are trained to work with flour brands within the premium, economy and value segments. They are also taught the processes to follow to achieve the best production output.

CFM’s training school also caters to a strong young people segment. It is equipping a young and aspiring new generation of bakers with the right knowledge, skill sets and world view to help scale up the industry. From 2020 to date, 1,500 bakers have been trained pan Nigeria at an estimated cost of N120 million.

The huge sum invested annually into developing bakers’ skillsets is yielding positive results. The quality of bread in circulation is improving. More young people are moving into the baking business at both large scale and small-scale operation levels. The constant supply of bread to the local stalls by bakers and the various cost-mitigating efforts of Nigerian bakers have also seen bread retain its position as the most affordable food staple consumed across local households. This is a cheering development in the country considering the current level of inflation and rising food prices in the country.

Speaking about the impact of the CFM baking school, Ashish Pande, the Managing Director of Crown Flour Mill Limited, said, “The robust investment into upskilling local bakers underscores our commitment to raising the performance level of the critical segments across our operating markets. This focus has a strong influence on household incomes and the productivity rating of the nation.”

“Our ultimate goal for making this huge investment is to bridge the observed skill gap in the industry and hence maximize bakers’ profitability. We believe this will make the industry grow and become more attractive to more youthful would-be-bakers. Therefore, CFM will continue to explore creative avenues to change the face of the baking industry, for an even brighter future”, he added.

Tasiu Jibril Hamzah from Kano State and a graduate of Computer Science, but with a strong passion for baking and food science in general, had this to say about the baking school. “I have learnt the impact that good baking/ bakery practices such as ingredients measurement, sanitation and staff management have on the profitability of a bakery.”

Kikelomo Keyede, another beneficiary of the CFM baking programme also emphasized the impact of the skills acquired at the baking school facility. She promised to put all that she learnt to work to stimulate a turnaround at her Excel Bakery.

Also sharing her experience, Ukwunna Blessed Williams, CEO of Blessed Kalu Star Company Limited and a beneficiary of the training said, “I have ventured into digital marketing, hydro geology, but baking has always been an art that fascinated me. The ability to make a recipe that will leave people wanting more and at the same time creating value in the marketplace is always something I look forward to.”

She added that the training has impacted her managerial skills, knowledge of recipes, customer service delivery and production output.

As CFM joins the world in celebrating WYSD 2021 it salutes the tenacity, resilience and creativity of the Nigerian youth especially throughout the pandemic. It also calls for the increased adoption of technical and vocational education and training (TVET) systems as part of Nigeria’s socio-economic recovery process post-COVID-19.

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