SINGAPORE - Ms Connie Ng, 25, is training to take over her family's bakery, Bread Story, which has been around since 2000 - along with its ovens.
The problems with their two industrial ovens are that first, the doors are opaque, so workers cannot even tell if the bread inside is burning, and second, it costs $20,000 per oven to replace it with a modern version.
In comes Baker 4.0, a new initiative to ready bakers for the digital economy, which promises funding support for new equipment and training, and help with product development.
Thanks to an 80 per cent grant from the initiative, this second-generation baker will be able to get more reliable ovens for the business she will be taking over.
"The ovens have transparent doors and heat-resistant features, so we won't waste time opening them repeatedly to check our bread or burn ourselves as much," she said.
Baker 4.0, a result of the National Trades Union Congress' e2i (Employment and Employability Institute) and the Singapore Bakery and Confectionery Trade Association (SBCTA) joining hands, was officially launched at the Marina Bay Sands (MBS) Expo and Convention Centre on Thursday (July 25).
It aims to identify skills bakers may lack and develop training programmes for them.
An industry-wide survey found baking professionals needed to improve their skills in digital technology and automation, ability to adapt to changing business needs through recipe improvements and less food wastage, and technical skills in dietary knowledge and menu development.
The SBCTA has an estimated 300 bakeries with approximately 6,000 bakers.
As a precursor to upcoming training programmes, the inaugural Junior Baker Symposium was held earlier this year by e2i and Creative Culinaire, a culinary school opened by chef Judy Koh, secretary general of SBCTA.
Industry trends and technical expertise were shared with over 50 junior bakers.
"The baking profession is tough - you must have pride and passion in what you do. I feel there is a need to support and inspire junior bakers, so that they too can feel the same pride in the profession. If you have passion for baking, you will have the stamina for it," said Ms Koh.
"The industry lacks manpower - young people may not enjoy the long hours of traditional baking, so we hope that by making the baking processes shorter with technology, we can attract more young Singaporean workers to become bakers."
One of the training programmes currently in development is a series of modules developed by Creative Culinaire, and conducted by Ms Koh, focusing on bakery management, and bread, cake and pastry skills for professional bakers.
Eligible candidates may receive up to 70 per cent funding on the course fee and a pay raise after training to recognise their new skills.
On top of that, Workforce Singapore has agreed to further support the employment needs of the industry by promoting career opportunities, and suitable funding for companies in SBCTA with manpower needs.
The memorandum of understanding was signed with SBCTA and e2i at the official opening of Chillax Asia 2019, a trade and consumer fair that ends on Saturday.
"With the bakery and confectionery industry coming together to better organise themselves with clear competencies, more aspiring bakers will be drawn to the profession when there are clearer career development pathways," said Mr Ng Chee Meng, NTUC secretary-general and Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, who opened Chillax Asia.