Delivering a confectionery masterclass

Confectionery Production board member Andy Baxendale has been called upon to help revive national training standards for the industry, amid fears the UK is losing traditional manufacturing skills

Known within the industry as The Sweet Consultant, Andy Baxendale has been tasked with helping the National Skills Academy for Food and Drink to update the National Occupational Standards (NOS) for the sector and make them fit for purpose.

Speaking to Confectionery Production, he said the existing standards had some “glaring omissions”, such as guidance on the manufacture of toffee, boiled sweets, fudge, liquorice and fondant, and it was vital they were updated to help train the next generation of sweet makers.

The National Skills Academy for Food and Drink will now implement the updated training framework, which it has said is crucial to ensure that industry standards are current and relevant.

With 24 years’ experience within the confectionery business, including gaining a Master of Science (MSc) in Advanced Food Manufacture, Baxendale highlighted the issue over training.

He said: “The lack of an up-to-date training framework and the fact that the training information has been left untouched for the last 10 years is symptomatic of what has happened to the confectionery industry.

“Confectionery manufacturing has been gradually slipping out of the UK mindset – I guess that’s what happens when it becomes commoditised by big businesses run by faceless accountants who care little or nothing for the rich history and skills behind it all.

“Basically, we reviewed the whole lot – the existing standards were updated and any gaps filled in, then the missing confectionery “disciplines” were added – for example chocolate panning and liquorice manufacture, toffee and fudge, and aerated confectionery.

“The framework can now be used as a guide by anyone who wants to construct any training courses – either a complete chocolate and sugar course, or piece by piece for each separate entity.
“This brings the confectionery offering now more into line with the more developed and used National Occupational Standards – for example butchery and dairy.”

Andy is currently working to set up a National Academy of sweets to teach a new generation the art of confectionery production and development, and he says that without help, in future more and more of our sweet treats will come from Germany, the global power in the industry.

He said: “Despite the legitimate concerns over lost skills, Britain’s love affair with its traditional treats such as humbugs, pear drops, aniseed balls and sherbet lemons is as strong as ever. We just need to make sure we don’t lose the expertise needed to make them.”

National Skills Academies are employer-led centres of excellence, delivering the skills required by each sector of the economy. The National Skills Academy for Food & Drink exists to provide businesses across the UK’s food and drink manufacturing and processing industry with a single source of access to leading edge workforce training, vocational study and skill upgrades designed to boost productivity, innovation, profitability and growth.

Andy is a former product development manager for Chewits a respected national consultant in every aspect of confectionery production. He has extensive knowledge of regulation and legislation in the industry, advising companies on everything from recipes to staff training and enhanced production techniques.

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