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Part 3: To Regulate or Not to Regulate? continued…The History of the Apprenticeship Program in Canada

by Dina Hamed

Before we can move forward and ask, ‘should our trade be regulated?’ Martin points out the fact that we need to look back on how bakers were historically trained in Canada. Prior to the rise of the 1-2-year college certificate programs,

40, 50, 60 years ago, the bakers in Canada a lot of them were European trained… (there was a lot of immigration from Europe to Canada) …and the bakeries that they opened reflected their training. They passed that training on through the apprenticeship system…Pretty much everybody learned the same type of thing. There were very few in-store bakeries, like the big grocery chain bakeries, but the ones that did exist also employed those scratch bakers that needed to be trained. You had Safeway who was a big player in the apprenticeship system because they wanted their bakers to know how to bake from scratch. So, it was a very vibrant, trade and government engaged system that trained our bakers. This was the model in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. Around the end of the 70’s and 80’s the industrial baking suppliers started dealing with products that made baking easier. So instead of a baker making a blueberry pie filling, a baker could buy a box of commercial blueberry pie filling, or apple, or cherry. That led to some bakeries buying ready mixed products…Then suddenly when every grocery store had to have their own in-store medium sized bakery, like Sobeys, Loblaws, [etc.],… at first they were training their workers as bakers through the apprenticeship system. Then they realized they could hire lower paid workers to open boxes…and put product on pans to warm up, on pans to proof and bake, or fully baked products to…thaw and serve…That was really devastating to the training of bakers in Canada. (Barnett, personal communication, September 29, 2021)

Although the apprenticeship program still exists across Canada today, it is not the main way that bakers are trained anymore (Barnett, 2014). However, according to Martin (personal communication, September 29, 2021), in his capacity as head of BAC, he is ready to “poke people” and ask them, “what do you want? Do you want an apprenticeship system? Let’s light a fire under it and make it really good!”

Music to this writer’s ears! I believe there is something to be gained from revisiting our history, looking at other models of training and education across the pond, and really asking ourselves what is the best way to serve our industry? Especially now that consumer demands are increasingly geared back towards scratch baking (Bakery Products Market, 2021). But I am not naïve enough to ignore the fact that there are many stakeholders involved, with varying degrees of interests regarding any trade regulatory discussions. More questions need to be asked. More conversation needs to be had. There is work to be done!


Bakery Products Market (2021 - 2026): Size, Share, Analysis - Mordor Intelligence. (2021). Retrieved from https://www.mordorintelligence.com/industry-reports/bakery-products-market

Barnett, M. (2014, August 29). Easing Labour Pains. Retrieved from https://www.bakersjournal.com/...