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Where Are All The Bakers?

Baker shortage

In a recent report by The Boston Globe, it was revealed that while bakeries, restaurants and pastry shops are expanding, the pool of bakers available to fill positions has actually shrunk. Being the curious type, we wondered, why? Isn't the bakery business subject to the rules of supply and demand, like any other business?

The answer is yes, of course. But the baking industry faces challenges unique to it. It's true that in a rising economy with a tight labor market, all industries across the board are experiencing labor shortages. Many states are reporting record-low unemployment rates and employers often have to reach far and wide to find skilled workers. In this environment bakeries also contend with the often unattractive aspects of the job that make it less than appealing to prospective employees.

For instance, baking is a physically demanding job and the hours are often grueling. Most bakery shifts are similar to third shifts in factories, with a lot of standing, lifting and repetitive movement. In addition, workers must be alert and paying attention at all times, as baking is a science and requires proper measuring, mixing and an ability to follow directions exactly. Pay is traditionally not great at the entry to intermediate level, and without a passion for it many bakery workers often don't last long.

And, as if that wasn't enough to turn off most job-seekers, increasing demand for specialty work that cannot be automated means that employers often require a range of creative skills. A background in art, graphic design, sculpting and/or cake decorating is often necessary to produce the visually appealing designs displayed in many pastry shop windows. Ever seen Cake Boss?

The good news is this: with high demand for bakery workers comes a unique opportunity. Anyone interested in the culinary arts can get their foot in the door, possibly at a higher-than-anticipated salary. And, if you have experience (or a degree) in visual arts, marketing, sales or R&D, you will be even more attractive to employers. All of these skills can apply to a baking career.

Of course, there's also the one job perk that only bakers enjoy: licking the bowl.

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