SUPREME FLOUR Siyabhaka Academy
SUPREME FLOUR Siyabhaka Academy: Upskilling the next generation of baking professionals
Aligned with, and critical to the RCL FOODS baking growth strategy, the SUPREME FLOUR Siyabhaka Academy aims to develop school leavers into a new breed of highly employable young baking professionals through an 18-month learnership that covers both theory and practical in-store bakery training.
Typically attended by students aged 18 to 23 years old, with limited or no experience, one of the main objectives of the Siyabhaka Academy is to develop and nurture the skills of each learner, creating the highly employable young professionals that are needed in the baking industry at large.
Comprehensive Training that opens up a range of employment opportunities
And in today’s working world where experience is very often deemed necessary to be considered employable, Sandra Garner, Learning & Development Specialist at RCL FOODS says it is an ongoing challenge for aspiring bakers to find and secure jobs.
“What makes our learnership at the Siyabhaka Academy unique is that students receive training in a classroom environment, in an in-store bakery, and by working hand in hand with the technical advisors.
“This gives the students a balanced view of theory and practicality, allowing them to leave the Siyabhaka Academy not only as experts in how to create recipes but also equipped with a thorough understanding of the philosophy and technicality behind the science of baking, which as a result, opens many doors within the industry,” she explains
Guidance, Mentorship, and Support
Above and beyond the theoretical and practical knowledge they leave with, students also receive guidance, mentorship, and support during their time at the Siyabhaka Academy.
“We understand that it can be very daunting for the students to step into this industry. That is why we take them through a work readiness onboarding process to teach them what would be expected from them and how they should engage with the various stakeholders,” comments Sandra.
“The students are also exposed to a curriculum that is broader than just baking. They spend time in laboratories to understand the research & development aspect. They work hand-in-hand with technical advisors to learn more about fault-finding, and they spend time in plant bakeries to gain experience on large-scale, industrial baking equipment.”
She further explains that the Siyabhaka Academy further assists the students by placing them in in-store bakeries that are close to their homes, to ensure that a lack of access to transport and accommodation will not hinder their paths of gaining experience.
“The in-store bakery experience allows the students to see the daily demands and challenges of a baking professional. Not only are they taught to work with different recipes, products, and equipment, but they are also taught how to work alongside different people.
“The Siyabhaka Academy also provides the students with a stipend, and if additional travel and accommodation are required (for example, when students travel to the SUPREME FLOUR mill), we will foot the bill to ensure the students will be able to attend,” she adds.
Confident Baking Professionals
And while for many students succeeding at baking a small recipe in their own kitchen is always gratifying, Eugene De Kock, National Technical Support Manager at RCL FOODS emphasises that because home baking is in fact very different from the industrial scale baking that takes place in a store environment, it’s important that training covers these aspects as well.
“It’s important to show the students exactly how to use the different types of industrial equipment, how to not only follow but also understand the recipes, as well as how to undertake fault-finding. Learning how to interact and engage in a bakery in a working environment is particularly important as most follow and abide by similar rules and procedures which is certainly something you will not learn baking at home.
“When we first introduce the students to the Siyabhaka Academy, there is a bit of a shock factor, but as they go through their training, you see how they become more comfortable around the equipment, more sure of themselves, and gain more confidence every week. Which is exactly what we want so that they go into their new careers or working environments ready and confident,” he comments.
For 26-year-old Siyabhaka Academy graduate, Samantha, entering the food industry is something she’s always wanted to do and now only after graduating from the Siyabhaka Academy realises just how much experience she actually needs to make a success of herself in the industry.
“I came to the academy thinking I would be able to take on a career as a baker. But now that I have graduated, I see that I can potentially go into a technical team or an R&D team. It’s very exciting to think about the future,” she enthuses.
By giving promising, aspiring bakers the opportunity to learn, become qualified, gain experience and see what the world of baking looks like in its entirety, Sandra believes the Siyabhaka Academy is playing its part in upskilling the industry, and passing decades of knowledge onto the next generation of baking professionals.
“In the end, it’s really about being able to provide these deserving students with an opportunity to gain real-world experience and thereby help jumpstart their career journey within the baking world which is not only heart-warming but very rewarding,” she concludes.