You may have read in previous editions that I now have the honour of being president of the Alliance for Bakery Students and Trainees (ABST). I regard this as a particular privilege, as these youngsters will be the future of our industry and so I am very keen to do all I can to support and help them.The recent ABST conference was a great success, with more people attending from more colleges. Judging by the quality of many of the competition entries there is some excellent talent coming through.The fact that so many companies also very generously sponsored this event shows that the trade appreciates the value and need for training.So is everything in the garden rosy? Well, no. Talk to any employer either running a bakery or supplying the trade and they will bemoan the difficulties of getting good young people. But attend the conference as someone who employs people and you will be inundated with keen youngsters asking for assistance in getting employment. I was approached by at least 30 people wanting assistance with finding a job, even though I no longer have a business or employ anyone. There seems to be a missing link.This week I have been judging The Rising Star Award category, which I am sponsoring, at the forthcoming Baking Industry Awards and on which we will report in a future edition. The judges and I were very impressed by the number and overall quality of entries, but it was surprising and disappointing to us that of the students who entered none have gained any extra practical experience. Several of them have been very successful in competitions, attended short courses at Richemont and so on, but have not actually worked in a local bakery on their days off, weekends or holidays.What they learn at college is excellent, but it needs expanding and tempering by good hands-on experience. I don’t want to sound like a boring old “in-my-day-I-did and-it-didn’t-do-me-any-harm” person, but while attending the National Bakery School full-time, I also worked Sunday and Friday nights plus holidays for the excellent Fred Ayres at his bakery in south-east London.Apart from paying for my studies, this also provided wonderful practical experience, which, when blended with my college work, was the foundation on which I built my career. It also showed my future employers that I had a strong work ethic.The more I try to think what the missing link is between the trade wanting good young people and students struggling to find suitable employment, the more convinced I am that this lack of practical experience is a large part of the problem. So, for the 2012 ABST Conference I am aiming to put together workshops, where potential employers can explain what they are looking for when recruiting.
The UK is leading the way in educational technology and is home to more than a quarter of Europe’s edtech businesses. By 2020, the global market for the sector is expected to total £129 billion and it’s great to see local, startup businesses like Ohbot tapping into this demand and creating new jobs as a result. Not only does DIT have a dedicated team of International Trade Advisers across the South West to support ambitious and innovative businesses like Ohbot looking to access new markets and increase exports, but we also have a team of experienced sector specialists and an overseas network in 108 countries. We can offer a range of guidance and support, including international market research and exporting workshops, as well as enabling contact with buyers and distributors in new markets. The Ohbot robot has formed an integral part of digital skills training in schools. (c) OhbotLast year, the business began working with DIT to help increase its exports and expand its international presence. DIT identified key target markets where demand for educational technology was growing and introduced the business to potential buyers. It also put the firm in touch with an export manager who offered on-the-ground support and advice about attending South by Southwest (SXSW), a series of film and technology festivals and conferences, in Texas earlier this year.DIT has also provided financial support to help Ohbot exhibit at global shows and meet with Microsoft representatives from the US.To cope with the increase in demand, Ohbot plans to hire 5 new members of staff to work at its manufacturing site at Halliday Mill, as well as brand and marketing specialists.Mat Walker, co-founder at Ohbot, said: Paul Shand, DIT’s Head of South West said: Ohbot, a Gloucestershire company that makes robots for the education sector, has secured contracts in the US, Australia, and Canada with support from the Department for International Trade (DIT).The business recently signed a contract with the Microsoft Store in the US after exhibiting at Bett, a global education training and technology show in London.The deal will see Ohbots supplied to all 80 Microsoft stores across the US and Canada to help children at its YouthSpark summer camps learn technical skills. The robots are used to help kids have fun while learning how to code. The business also secured its first deal with an Australian distributor to supply robots to schools across the country with additional orders expected over the next year.The Stroud-based business, founded by Dan Warner and Mat Walker in 2014, designs and manufactures affordable robots to teach children digital skills such as coding. We’re a relatively new company and started Ohbot in 2014 using Crowdfunder and Kickstarter sites. We knew there was demand in the UK for technology that could teach children about coding and robots, but initially didn’t have the contacts or the know-how to showcase our robots internationally. Working with DIT was key to our international success. The team of advisers introduced us to buyers and distributors, which means that children across the globe will be able to learn about technology by using our products. For businesses that are considering launching their products internationally, I would say don’t hesitate. Working with DIT has had a huge impact on our business. If we can succeed on the global stage, so can other South West businesses. For more information or to access online support, including the find a buyer, and export readiness tools, visit great.gov.uk.