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Apprentices rise to the challenge in a British Army Bake Off

Apprenticeship week saw a British Army style Bake Off in a challenge of the chefs.

The chefs’ white coats were at odds with the camouflage, and the colourful cakes far from the ration packs associated with military life, but on Thursday 8th February, the Defence College of Logistics, Policing and Administration (DCLPA)’s Food Services Training Wing (FSTW) at Worthy Down, Hampshire, hosted an Apprenticeship Bake Off.

Nine teams of two apprentices from across the South East and South West Apprenticeship Ambassador Networks joined one Army team in the third annual competition.

Apprenticeships give people a lot more opportunity - there’s a little bit more flexibility and a lot more time and opportunity to bring their knowledge on as well. The apprenticeship in the Army lead on to major qualifications and are second to none.” Corporal Jaden Dunn

With strict time limits in the crowded kitchen, the 20 apprentices were tasked to produce two bakes each.

The first was of their choosing, provided it referenced the ‘Life Skills’ theme of the 2024 National Apprenticeship Week (5 – 11 February 2024), while the second was a tray of Chelsea buns, as baked by Army Chef apprentices during their final assessment.

Given the complicated method, this proved the perfect test of skills the students had developed within their varied apprenticeships.

The bakers were closely monitored by Corporal Jaden Dunn, who was supervising the kitchen.

The 29-year-old from Dudley did his Army Chef apprenticeship 14 years ago, which has led to a varied and exciting career. Of the apprentices, he remarked that while their skillsets were widely varied, they boasted a shared enthusiasm, and problem-solving nature.

“They all played off each other’s strengths so if they weren’t confident, they’d ask each other questions,” he said.

“I think for any apprenticeship, if you don’t know something, it’s natural to go to somebody to ask that question, gain that information, take that onboard and then implement it in what you’re doing.

“Apprenticeships give people a lot more opportunity - there’s a little bit more flexibility and a lot more time and opportunity to bring their knowledge on as well. The apprenticeship in the Army lead on to major qualifications and are second to none.”

Skills for life is very much the aim of the British Army, which offers a wide number of apprenticeships across the force.

The Army offers somewhere in the region of 40 separate apprenticeships to over 13 thousand apprentices currently, ranging from entry level all the way up to degree level, still with plans to expand.” Warrant Officer Class 2 Ken Spence, Army’s Apprenticeship Ambassador

Warrant Officer Class 2 (WO2) Ken Spence, the Army’s Apprenticeship Ambassador, organised the Bake Off. He commented:

“Today has gone really well.

"The Army is the number one apprenticeship provider in the country and has been for the past three years.

"It’s important during National Apprenticeship Week that we interact with our civil sector partners – we’re devoted to apprenticeships and keen to show that 95% of soldiers who join the British Army get offered the chance to receive a trade related apprenticeship.

“The Army offers somewhere in the region of 40 separate apprenticeships to over 13 thousand apprentices currently, ranging from entry level all the way up to degree level, still with plans to expand.”

Elizabeth Flegg, Chair of the South East Apprenticeship Ambassador Network concurred:

“The Army offers apprentices skills on the job, they’re learning their trade and getting good exposure and experience.

"The Army is an employer-provider, so they’ve got a great opportunity to deliver direct to their workforce.

"The Army gets them enrolled, trained up, doing things well and then develop them into the future.”

The best thing about my apprenticeship was learning a whole new trade, and earning at the same time, rather than just learning. What the Army’s doing with the apprenticeships is ideal.” TROOPER AKEEM WOODS, KINGS ROYAL HUSSARS

At Thursday’s Bake Off, the Army team comprised driver apprentice Private (Pte) Amika Joseph, of 1 Medical Regiment, Tidworth, and HM Forces Serviceperson apprentice Trooper (Tpr) Akeem Woods of the Kings Royal Hussars, also based in Tidworth.

The pair have been friends since childhood, growing up in Saint Vincent together before training as police officers. In 2021, they both joined the British Army, once again training together, before beginning their respective apprenticeships.

Coincidentally, they were reunited with their respective postings to Tidworth, and when the opportunity to take part in the Bake Off arose, Amika knew just who her co-chef would be.

Their chosen bake was a Banana Chocolate loaf – her grandmother’s recipe – which they presented alongside their Chelsea buns. While they didn’t take the top prize, the pair thought it was a great opportunity to put the skills they had developed during their apprenticeship to good use.

Akeem, 25, commented:

“Being in the Army has taught me a lot, it has grown me, broadened my maturity and my responsibility of being a leader – all those components.

“The best thing about my apprenticeship was learning a whole new trade, and earning at the same time, rather than just learning.

"What the Army’s doing with the apprenticeships is ideal.”

Amika, 27, agreed:

“I think the best thing about it is that you don’t just do what the Army wants – you’re involved with the civilian apprenticeship organisation and involved with the Army.

"So even if you do decide to leave, you still have something you can work with outside of the Army.

I think the best thing about it is that you don’t just do what the Army wants – you’re involved with the civilian apprenticeship organisation and involved with the Army. So even if you do decide to leave, you still have something you can work with outside of the Army.” Private Amika Joseph, 1 Med Regiment

Of the competition, she added:

“I’m grateful for the opportunity to be here and to represent our regiments and the Army Apprenticeship scheme. But it’s challenging, because I’ve never made buns before!”

After taking part in the judging, which crowned the Amazon team the winners based on their bakes’ presentation, colour, shape/size, baking/texture and portion, Elizabeth Flegg added:

“All of the apprentices have been learning about teamwork and time management, alongside cooking and baking skills.

"Interestingly, two of the bakes were focussed on time management, because for those teams, when you do an apprenticeship, you’ve got extra things to balance and manage, which I think they’ve learnt even more today!”

“We’ve seen the variety of apprenticeships reflected within the cakes.

"We had one cake which was very obviously made by some IT apprentices, because it was made to look like a piece of network equipment.

"That apprenticeship variety is really important because we’ve got to get the right skills that the country needs to move us into the future and to give people skills for life.”

Visiting the event was Lieutenant Colonel (Lt Col) Jim Crompton, who is responsible for Skills Strategy within the Ministry of Defence (MOD). Observing the event, he commented:

“The Bake Off is brilliant – it’s great to have so many apprentices from so many places, because everyone’s apprenticeships stories are a little bit different.

"It makes me proud that our apprentices are on the whole so incredibly successful, because our training pipelines are designed so that your trade training is linked to an apprenticeship, which is ultimately linked to a role and potentially a job anywhere.

“Doing an apprenticeship in the Army, or any of the other services, is first and foremost about being a service-person, a soldier.

"Because there are certain skills that we learn – ways of behaviour and doing things that mean we’re actually very good at problem solving.

"Also, we devote ourselves to whatever it is we need to do – we’re great at getting results and those are skills that frankly every employer would like.

"We’re just very lucky that we work in an organisation with so many people driven to perform at their best.”

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