The proportion of bakeries that have arranged or funded training in the past 12 months has fallen by 17%. It went from 70% in 2007 to 53% in 2010, according to a new report from Improve, the food and drink sector skills council, prepared by BMG Research.This represents the largest decrease in the food and drink manufacturing and processing (FDMP) industry, with the total proportion of FDMP employers that provided training in the last 12 months falling from 67% in 2007 to 57% in 2010.Yet both the plant and craft baking sector do not think these figures are necessarily a cause for concern. Federation of Bakers director Gordon Polson said the plant baking sector doesn’t generally have a huge staff turnover, so training tends to be cyclical. “We are not aware, and nobody has intimated that they’ll be reducing their training,” he said.National Association of Master Bakers chief executive, Gill Brooks-Lonican said with the bite of the recession craft bakeries could not always afford for staff to go off on a training course.Dunn’s of Crouch End owner Christopher Freeman said training was still important to his firm, and all staff were encouraged to do it. His one-shop craft bakery has put around 10 staff through training over the past year and Freeman said there were no plans to cut this back.The bakery sector is the largest in the FDMP industry with the highest number of establishments (30%) and is the biggest employer (26%). Employment in bakery (up 2%) bucked the trend of double-digit declines in meat, fish and dairy from 2005-08 (ABI 2008 data). However, evidence of skills gaps were highest in the confectionery sector (25% of employers have a skills gap) and bakery (21%).
Homes and businesses linked up with NW Natural may see some money saved on their gas bill soon.The Portland-based utility has once again requested a rate drop through the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission. It is the third consecutive year the company, which serves around 730,000 customers, has asked for the reduction.If approved, rates for residences would be lowered 3.1 percent, and small-commercial rates by 3.4 percent. For the average house who uses about 53 therms a month, that drop would amount to $1.60 saved, the company said. Businesses that use on average 248 therms could save about $7.52 per month.The WUTC will issue a final decision by the end of October, NW Natural said.Utility companies make these requests every year and predicate them based on expected gas prices for the next 12 months. NW Natural said natural gas is expected to be in “abundant” supply.David H. Anderson, president and CEO, said natural gas prices are cheaper today than they were 15 years ago.“We’re proud to pass cost savings on to our customers while providing the same high-quality service, reliability and safety they expect,” he said.NWN Natural, traded on the New York Stock Exchange as NWN, closed Tuesday at $66.50 per share, down $1.20.