Bakeries are booming, but bakers are in short supply

bglobelogoBy Deirdre Fernandes | The Boston Globe

Our hunger for bread and muffins may be insatiable, but grocery stores, restaurants, and pastry shops are increasingly struggling to find one key ingredient: the bakers to make them all.

Massachusetts technology firms and health care companies have been in the trenches of the talent war for years, offering bonuses and padding benefits to lure skilled workers. But with the state’s unemployment rate dropping to its lowest level in 16 years in December, to 2.8 percent, a wider swath of businesses are now experiencing hiring woes, and baking jobs are among the latest to go unfilled.

Bakeries around the region said they are boosting salaries, deploying recruiters to hunt for kitchen staff, offering workers referral bonuses, even going as far as Canada and California to find skilled workers.

“The last six months have been particularly challenging,” said Joanne Chang, the owner of Flour Bakery. ”We’ve been short-staffed at some of the bakeries for months at a time.”

Flour needs to fill three baker jobs and a pastry chef position right now and in a few months will have to find another four bakers when the company opens a new location near the Prudential Center, Chang said.

At Roche Bros. Supermarkets Inc., a Wellesley-based grocery chain, the churn of hires and job openings is constant as workers leave for better pay or decide that weekend or early morning shifts are too tough.

“We might hire three to five bakers and lose two to three the following week,” said Joe Curtin, the director of recruiting, training, and development for the grocer. “Right now, it’s probably the toughest I’ve seen it at Roche Bros., in terms of finding help and good help.”

Bakeries are facing many of the same challenges hitting other industries in a rising economy and tight labor market, said Alicia Sasser Modestino, an economics and public policy professor at Northeastern University.

Read the full article here.

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