TRAVERSE CITY — A new baking certificate program through Northwestern Michigan College and the Great Lakes Culinary Institute is wrapping up its first semester.
College faculty said the program was designed to meet the demand for a less time-intensive program for students while catering to local needs for bakers.
"We did some research and there seemed to be a demand for bakers," said Fred Laughlin, Great Lakes Culinary Institute director.
"A lot of students like to specialize. The beauty with this program is that most of these classes already exist within the culinary program we have. We didn't reinvent the wheel. Students getting their culinary degree can also take a few extra classes to get this certificate."
Area bakers agree with NMC about the demand and said the fact the college is offering a certificate is significant for students.
"I attended NMC for culinary arts and half of my peers were only getting their degrees to be bakers," said Kathryn Thurston, head baker of 9 Bean Rows Bakery. "Once I got rolling in the culinary field I realized a degree and certificate are practically equal. Employers really look for experience and passion."
Thurston also said that while the research was accurate in showing bakers are in demand, it is not the most needed position in a kitchen.
"Honestly, bakers might be the easiest position to fill but they're usually the first ones to go once they realize how tedious and never-ending the work can be," she said. "There is a need but I wouldn't say Traverse City is in any more need for bakers than anywhere else. The biggest shortage in the industry is line cooks and dishwashers."
With or without the demand for bakers the new certificate program teaches the fundamentals of working in a kitchen that translate across the board.
"You obviously learn about baking but there is a management course, menu planning, students learn about costs and marketing products and there is a safety and sanitation class," said Laughlin.
The certificate program has brought in about 12 students. Laughlin said some of them are traditional students and others are people looking to get training to start a second career.
With their first semester wrapping up the students are enjoying what they have learned so far and look forward to the next two semesters.
"Baking has always been a passion of mine," said freshman Sicily Funchar. "I am looking to grow my knowledge and become better at baking."
"So far I have learned how to correctly make bread with fermenting and proofing it. I think I have it down pretty well now. I'm excited to see what all I learn next semester too."