Media coverage on the industry and celebrity bakers have been touted as reasons behind the boost in numbers. It has also resulted in a number of colleges offering a range of short courses for the first time, to cater for demand from both professional and hobby bakers.
Leicester College has seen student numbers increase 300% on its Level 2 (L2) Bakery course, since last year, from seven to 24. The college said last year was the first it had run L2 Bakery on-site, after a four-year break. Claire Willis, curriculum area manager hospitality and leisure, said she felt the change was due to the course having another year of advertising, and also the increased public interest in bread due to recent television coverage.
University College Birmingham (UCB) said it has had around 100 enrolments so far on its full-time L1 Bakery course, 50 on L2 and 20 on L3, with more still to come. It is also expected around 60 students for its part-time cake decoration and sugar flowers courses.
Dawn Gemmell, head of bakery at UCB, said: “Recruitment to our full-time bakery courses has grown at an incredible rate over the past few years. School-leavers are seeing the industry as an exciting and viable career option and, without doubt, the profile of bakery as a craft on different TV programmes has helped raise awareness amongst young people. Alongside mainstream bakeries there is also more profile of things like cupcake businesses and artisan bakery, which has helped to show how varied a career in the industry can be”.
Meanwhile, Lorna Jones, divisional leader of food studies at Tameside College, said the college had seen a healthy amount of interest in its bakery courses, with around 64 full-time bakery students. It also has around 65 cake decoration students and 24 patisserie students enrolled for the coming year. While the intake on bakery is not a big increase on 2011 (60 students), Jones explained that, a couple of years ago, the numbers were between the 40-50 mark. “We also have raft of short courses, that we’re offering for the first time this year.” The courses, which run for six to eight weeks, include bread-making and wired sugar flowers. “We’ve seen a lot of interest in them, and we’re almost full for the whole academic year,” said Jones. “We even have a waiting list for cake decoration.”
Sheffield College has 60 bakery students signed up for this year, over its full-time (f/t) L1, L2 and part-time (p/t) L1 courses. The college said it has seen a steady increase in numbers of recent years, and is now at capacity.
Lynn Sale, head of department for catering and hospitality, said: “We believe the growing interest in the popular culture of traditional cooking skills and techniques has helped to encourage people to seek courses such as bakery.”
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for London South Bank University said it had already increased its allocation for the September 2012 intake, on higher education courses at the National Bakery School, due to high demand.
Sue Haskell, lecturer in bakery and cake decoration, Brooklands College, said cake decoration was very popular at the moment. “We’re also now offering lots of short courses, because of the interest in things like cupcakes. We may also do a short course in bakery, but that wouldn’t be till later in the year,” she explained. Haskell said its bakery course didn’t run last year as there wasn’t enough interest, but she said that, due to the National Bakery School not offering further education courses from September – but instead focusing on higher education, Brooklands had had a lot of enquiries from people who would have gone there.
Haskell said she couldn’t give exact enrolment figures for the ABC and L1, L2 and L3 Cake Decoration courses it offers, until nearer the course start date later in September, but said numbers were “looking very promising”. She said the was a “definite buzz” about bakery, and felt that programmes like The Great British Bake Off had inspired some people to take up these courses.
Blackpool & The Fylde College said it had also noticed a slight increase in students enrolling on its bakery and patisserie course, mainly due to more adult learners enrolling onto L2 Bakery. Gary Inman, assessor instructor for bakery, said he put it down to a number of factors, including the fact that adults are choosing to try a new trade due to redundancies – “food is less affected by the recession as people always need to eat”. He also believed programmes such as The Great British Bake Off have helped. “Household names have been limited to chefs over recent years, but that’s changing now.”