The creation of a new training centre for Scottish bakers was announced at the Scottish Association of Master Bakers (SAMB) conference, held from May 27-29 in Peebles. Scotland’s first ever Scottish Bakery Training Centre at Larbert, Stirlingshire, which is almost complete, was described by President John Murray as “highly significant and very exciting”. Head of skills training at the SAMB Arthur Rayer told British Baker: “The SAMB will be able to offer members something it has never had before, its own dedicated training centre.” The new centre, which will also be hired out to non-members, has been made possible thanks to the generosity of craft bakers Mathiesons of Falkirk, which has 34 shops and a wholesale trade. MD George Stevenson offered to convert an area of the company’s new bakery and offices, and provide it to the SAMB for training purposes. Initially, it is a five-year agreement with the option to extend for another five years.Rayer said: “It will be a ‘centre of excellence’ and will comprise two facilities. A state-of-the-art training room will provide complete learning, including eight computers linked to Learn Direct Scotland, the government-funded body providing computer-based learning. There will also be a fully equipped bakery where ‘masters’ of the craft, including current bakers, retired bakers, technical representatives and specialists from ingredients companies, will be able to tutor students, give demonstrations and monitor progress.”Rayer continued: “We plan to offer everything from confectionery and bread-making courses to fault finding, retail training, health and safety and HACCP. We have already secured European Social Funding for the West of Scot-land amounting to £200,000 for two years to fund courses. We are currently bidding for funding for other Scottish regions.”Rayer spoke about the difficulty of recruiting bakers, particularly young bakers but also adults who do not receive the same government training allowances as those aged up to 24. However, after several initiatives the SAMB trained 900 people during 2006.He paid tribute to his training manager John Livingstone and the six full-time training staff “who work very hard in delivering excellence”. The SAMB board and Scottish Bakery Training Council, the national training organisation, have agreed to provide £50,000 each towards setting up the training centre.However, equipment is much needed and Keith Stalker of supplier EPP was thanked at the conference for offering to donate a two-pocket roll plant, which has a value in excess of £25,000. All other offers of equipment or ingredients would be welcomed, said Rayer.New presidentThe new SAMB president, who takes office immediately, is John Chalmers, MD of Chalmers of Bucksburn, Aberdeenshire, with 14 bakery shops and two restaurants. Chalmers worked in the bakery and shops at weekends and during school holidays before commencing his apprenticeship. He became a member of the 40 Group in 1980 and served as Chairman in 1990/92.In 1993 he succeeded his father Ron as Chalmers’ MD and also served on the SAMB Executive Council while Chairman of Region 2 from 1993/95.In 1998 John was elected Deacon of the Aberdeen Bakery Incorporation. He said: “I feel I come from a family which has flour in its blood! My father, Ron, was President in 1976/77 and I am very proud to fill the same position in 2006.”Minimum wageAndre Sarafilovic, convenor of the industrial relations committee, said that a 5.9% rise in the minimum wage this year had brought increases over three years to 18%. John Murray, the outgoing President, said although many companies were affected by the increases, particularly on the issue of differentials, others were quite happy to pay the minimum wage and it was not right that bakery should be seen as a low pay industry.Technical lowdownSTAN SMITH, convenor of the technical committee, defined the areas on which the Food Standards Agency is consulting in Scotland. He said that claims about ‘low fat’ must mean 3% total fat or less. Members trying to reduce trans fatty acids should be aware that it increases the levels of saturated fats. Labelling is still in consultation while school meals, which had been trialled with lower fats, salt and sugar, had resulted in lower energy levels, so new combinations are being looked at. There are concerns that if folic acid is added to flour it will add weight to the argument that all nutrients added to flour should be declared on the label. Sound financesIan Hay, SAMB Treasurer and Kirk Hunter, chief executive, have put the association on a sound financial footing. The net worth of the SAMB is now approximately £1.2m. This has been achieved by a decade of careful financial management and the development of the training department as a source of income.40 GroupIan McGhee, President of SAMB 40 Group for members under 40 years old, looked back over a successful year which included a bakery trip to Canada, centred mainly on Vancouver. The 40 Group also hosted a Chinese banquet at Food & Bake, Birmingham NEC, and increased committee members to 13. The 40 Group will celebrate its Golden Jubilee this year with a function in September. Ian handed over presidency of the 40 Group to Brian Sarafilovic.