The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

On internships

PastryPaul's picture

On internships

Hi All,

In other posts, I've made it clear that I consider internships to be a valuable part of our team building/hiring process, not to mention that it's a great way to "give back" to the industry. Lately, however our local schools have made some changes that seem to be somewhat bizarre and counter-productive.

It used to be that interns would be sent on two or three interships (as high as 6 for one school) starting about five months into the course. Now, they are being sent out after a few weeks. Good Lord, they're lost!!! One recent interns didn't know how to put a paddle on a mixer, another tried to combine 30 litres of bombe-method chocolate mousse in the mixer and succeeded in making chocolate soup.

The second new rule is that interns can not go back to a shop for subsequent internships. Ideally, they are asked to find internships at a pastry shop/bakery, a restaurant, and a hotel. Used to be that we would take an intern for the duration and put them through all facets of the business. Heck, the better ones used to do stints in formula creation, costing, supplier interaction, product selection/mix, etc.

Now, I don't expect interns to be experts, and I do expect my staff to teach them, but, give me a break. Am I wrong in expecting them to have, at least, a rudimentary base of knowledge before they are sent out? I spoke to the two largest schools and they told me they wanted students to have real world experience ASAP. Seems to me that they will scare off many potential sucessful people by tossing them to the wolves (so to speak)

Internships in our shop are fought over, and some of my people are guest lecturers in the schools, but I am seriously considering telling the culinary schools to take us off their lists for first internships. Doing so would stick in my craw. The schools need us to put the finish on their students.

What have been your experiences? What steps do you take in granting internships? How do you manage your relatioships with the culinary schools? If there are any culinary school people out there, or students for that matter,... What is the logic behind sending out these "lost souls" way before they are ready?

I usually sign of with "Cheers'" but not this time.

RobynNZ's picture

It's not my place to comment, but I do so to give this post a 'jump', in the hope that people who are familiar with the matter of internship see your request for comment.

Can't help but think you need to speak to the schools, just as you have outlined it in your post. Stunned to hear they made changes without consultation. No-one likes being taken for granted. Perhaps if you (and others - can you get support from other bakeries?) do indeed withdraw from the programme the schools will need to review or at least discuss the matter with you so the needs of the bakeries, the schools and the students can all be taken into account.


PastryPaul's picture

The schools have their own agendas and their own reasons for doing what they do. I find it of particular interest that all 4 local schools made the same changes at the same time. I suspect that either a) They met and decided to do so or b) They were told to do so by the Ministry of Education. Frankly, I can't get a straight answer as to which it is, but I suspect it's b).

Rather than ask to be excluded, I have met with some of my people and we decided to change the way we accept interns. When they first call, we will give an appointment and ask them to arrive ready for a short pratical skills test. We have already decided what that test will involve (nothing too grueling.... filling a pastry bag, setting up a mixer, basic hygeine, scaling ingredients, and making a paper cone. We may add a written test).

The question of only getting a particular intern once is more perplexing. A good  number of our staff were originally interns here.

 BTW: I don't know why you feel it's not your place to comment. Everyone who has an opinion is welcomed to share.



kayakjack's picture


Do you mind me asking what country you are in? Having a "Ministry of Education" dictate how interns are to be "educated" seems like a bit of an intrusive reach to me. What do they know about baking?


PastryPaul's picture

BTW I don't think "dictate" would be the correct term. The Ministry sets common curriculums and basic practises for all publically funded places of education. I highly doubt it was an order... more likely a "suggestion," or a part of an overall re-vamp.

I do not want to make this thread a discussion of private vs public/semi-public education. Frankly, the overall success of our public culinary education speaks for itself.

Granting internships is an excellent way to build our teams, and relationships with schools is of paramount importance in this regard. Maybe we have been lucky for the past several years, but now we need to establish proper guidelines to make internships valuable again. I was hoping to get feedback.


Chausiubao's picture

I've seen both sides of the spectrum, having been both an intern myself and having trained and worked with interns/apprentices on the front lines.

 My own school used the internship process as the last step in our education so we had the foundational "base of knowledge" that you are asking about. Perhaps the schools you are in coordination with do not have their student's or your best interest at heart. Whatever their intentions, at sending out students weeks into their training out into the field, are, only they can say, but it is certainly not the standard.

 Many chefs enjoy the prospect of a blank slate. In my own training it was clear that attitude was what mattered rather then knowledge or education. That being said, the faster you warm up to the mechanics of your responsibilities the faster the chefs will warm up to you. Perhaps your employees must be reminded to keep a closer eye on their new charges?


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

It is my opinion the schools are sending them out too early.  

I remember taking a building trades class in high school.  Just before the class started, my dad wanted to wall off an extra bedroom in the basement.  In school, our class was building a small wood frame house.  

As free time would have it, my father and brother would do a little work on the room.  I would come home from school with my new found knowledge and not hesitate to tell my brother and father what they did wrong.  After a few weeks of this (you can imagine) my father finally decided to let me learn what had to be done first, and then we would apply schooled learning to our little room to get it right the first time.  At least as close to it as possible.

Knowing first and then learning how to apply that knowledge reduces a lot of stress and frustration and makes the environment safer for everyone involved.  There is an important safety consideration.  It wasn't my father that taught me how to use a power saw or how to use a drill to cut for door knobs and mix plaster.  Machines can be dangerous.  Safety precautions need to be learned in a stress free environment. 

It won't be long before the students catch wind of what your entry test entails and they will be gathering this information before they show up to be tested.  I would make the list longer so that the schools can see there will have to be some education before they show up in "whites" to intern.  Even here, one has to have the book work done first before being placed in a shop.  They may even have to add a one month course of  "before you set your foot in the shop"  be it a DVD or whatever.  In fact that might be a good idea.  Give the school a demo disc of what would be practical information to start out on (or at least where they can find the information in the net.)  They can practice and "dry run" on school equipment first.

That schools want the interns to rotate shops and locations is understandable.  Another shop might not have the prime diversity that you teach, and a variety of learning is always good.  If it is too upsetting to the students themselves, they will let their voices be heard.  At least I hope they're not too intimidated.

An interesting practice here in Austria is "Schnuppern" or a short time observing a job that interests the student.  It is required after one semester of school (this time of the year) for two weeks and can be divided up into 3 different places of possible employment.  Some shops will actually put the kids to work and pay them so that they can experience the real world.  Students are usually about 14-15 yrs old when this is done.  The idea is that they get a feel for what the job entails without being committed and still have the chance to change their educational direction if they want to.  All that is needed is that the student write to a workplace and ask if they can observe on a particular date for several days or the entire 2 weeks.  Then they are back in the class room to get the foundations and work on some practical skills and specialized knowledge before interning.  Interning is the last step before certification exams.

Maybe a schnupper course is what the school needs to introduce students to what's behind a bakery  (without great risk to your staff and products) and then place interns when they're more knowledgable.