In a bustling part of south Eugene sits Metropol Bakery. Freshly baked ciabatta rolls, French bread, and croissants lay in baskets on the wall. Humming displays draw the customers' attention to cakes, cupcakes, and éclairs. A prominently displayed three-tiered carrot cake tells any would be customer that eating here will not comply with any boilerplate carbohydrate-deprived diet. None of these gastronomic delights would be possible were it not for the skill, sweat, and hard work of the bakers behind the counter. Baking is not the highest paying occupation, but steady employment should be expected for those who want to toss some dough around.
The baker working down the street at your local patisserie will prepare and mix ingredients according to a recipe. It's not rare to find bakers working odd hours, starting their shifts in the early hours of the morning in order for the breads and other freshly baked goods to be ready for customers. They will use mixing machines to prepare the batter or dough to be used that day. The ovens for baking require the baker to be comfortable around heat, have the ability to follow safety procedures, and understand how heat affects the selected ingredients. Depending on the size of the bakery staff, a baker may take customer orders, or prepare and serve food items.
Right out of an episode of "Mr. Rodgers' Neighborhood," a baker working at a manufacturing facility will make standardized baked goods using large-volume mixing and baking equipment. The ability to maintain quality standards is necessary in large scale production. Bakers will use basic math skills to ensure the correct portions of ingredients are used. The time sensitive nature of the work, combined with the hot and noisy work environment can make work stressful.
The minimum education requirement for a baker is long-term on-the-job training. Experience can be gained by doing more basic job duties, while working as an apprentice baker, baker in training, or a baking helper. Those who have related work experience or a vocational degree will have a competitive edge in the job market.
|A Baker's Dozen Skills|
|(Selected Common Skills for Bakers)|
|Apply food decorating techniques|
|Apply food handling rules|
|Apply health and sanitation standards|
|Keep production records|
|Measure or weigh ingredients|
|Mix ingredients per formula or recipe|
|Operate baking equipment|
|Operate food decorating equipment|
|Operate food preparation equipment|
|Use basic mathematics|
|Use specialized bakery equipment|
The outlook for bakers in Oregon is far better than the national picture. The Oregon Employment Department projects employment for bakers will increase 10 percent between 2008 and 2018, a slightly higher growth rate than is expected for all occupations. Bakers are expected to see just over 250 job openings due to growth, and another 660 jobs due to replacing workers entering retirement or leaving the trade. It is also expected that industries that employ bakers will grow faster in Oregon than nationally.
Back at Metropol a father and son sit down for lunch. The two split a turkey sandwich made with a croissant baked that morning. The son stares intently at the assortment of freshly made strawberry cupcakes. He may not know the skill that it took to make the perfect croissant. He probably can't understand what combination of flour and sugar it takes to conjure the cakes and other treats many delight in. But the smile on a child's face should tell any baker just how much their work is appreciated and enjoyed.