Bakery trainee case studies


The Centre for Better Health recognises a healthy community is an inclusive community in which individuals can live satisfying and hopeful lives and where there is no stigma about mental ill health.

Our Social Enterprises, Better Health Bakery, Better Health Bikes and Better Health Products, are each a thriving example of this ethos in practice.

Here we celebrate and share the inspiring stories and work that we see our trainees producing day-in and day-out.

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A self-referral to our bakery trainee programme, Andrew completed a 12-week placement at the Better Health Bakery from January to March 2019. A keen home-baker, Andrew was eager to use the placement to learn more about the art of making sourdough bread while working on his confidence and social skills in order to return to the workplace.

In his own words, “Other than developing baking-related skills, I have benefitted the most by being placed in a work team setting and re-acclimatising myself to it and its dynamics after a very long period of relative isolation. 

He continues, “Given that my fear of returning to the workplace had so far been an important barrier to me returning to regular employment, and had undermined my general motivation levels, I feel that the trainee scheme has counterbalanced that and I am more motivated, or less inhibited, about returning to work.”

This progression was further evidenced by an increase in scores across almost all of Andrew’s soft-skills over the three months, including a high score of 10 for job skills and social skills on completion. Andrew’s wellbeing outcomes also increased during the same period, moving from an overall total of 39 at the beginning to 45 at the end of the placement.

Indeed, Andrew’s progress as a trainee baker was so impressive he was offered the opportunity to complete an early shift (6am to 2pm) and a bake shift (4pm to midnight) immediately following completion of his placement. These two additional shifts were given as an opportunity for Andrew to see the end-to-end baking process at Better Health Bakery and to provide first-hand experience of the types of shifts a baker is expected to work in open employment.

Andrew’s feedback for us? “I was welcomed into a group of strangers who all shared a common goal of being part of a productive process. Everyone was welcoming, friendly, supportive, and generous with sharing knowledge. There was fairness in how work was allocated etc. I greatly appreciated the fact that the Social Enterprise  Employment Lead would meet with me often to check how I am and to discuss next steps with me. I felt that you cared about what would happen after the scheme came to an end and that you wanted to help with maximising my prospects.”

Following a referral to Hackney’s supported employment team, Hackney Works, Andrew plans to secure some part-time law-based or office work, which they are helping him to secure.

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A self-referral to our bakery trainee programme, Victoria attended her 12-week placement at the Better Health Bakery from January to March 2019. During this time she learnt how to make a variety of organic sourdough loaves including practical skills such as following recipes and weighing ingredients as well as mixing, shaping and baking bread.

On starting the placement Victoria’s primary goals were to develop a routine and learn how to work in a structured environment which she believed would help her mind focus, particularly in the workplace. She also wanted to use the placement to build her confidence for future work opportunities. 

Victoria’s progress over this three month period was tremendous, with scores on her soft skills soaring to a high of 10 across each: job skills, motivation, structure and routine, confidence and social skills. What did she feel she achieved most? “Learning how to communicate with strangers, normally I would close-up but working here has been comfortable for me. My social skills and confidence have developed as a result of training at the bakery. I was very, very shy and quiet at the beginning, but I got there in the end!”

“My ideas about the workplace have changed entirely. I thought it would be boring, but over the last 12 weeks my perspective has changed completely.

“I’ve always wanted to learn how to cook, and am now going on to interview with Karma Kitchens in Bethnal Green for their Commis Chef training programme.”

The Karma Kitchen Training programme is a 6-week programme designed to increase the skills and employability of local youth in a safe and social learning environment, leading to direct employment following completion of the course.

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Steven attended a trainee placement at Better Health Bikes from July to October 2018, and was granted a placement at the Better Health Bakery immediately following this, which he completed in February 2019.

After a few years of being out of work due to mental ill-health, Steven joined Better Health Bikes as a trainee bike mechanic so that he could start to re-build his weekly routine and develop some structure. His aim was to learn mechanical skills in order to move closer to getting back into employment.

For Steven, his experience in the bike shop led him to interacting with new people and developing a new skill set. Initially he found working for a whole day challenging but also very rewarding as it was helping with his motivation and his future prospects of employment. In his own words, “I have a lot of respect for the mechanics [at Better Health Bikes]. They know so much, all the tiny tolerances in repairs that make so much difference. What was beneficial for me was feeling that I was doing something worthwhile – making roadworthy bikes, readying them for sale and, in turn, supporting the social enterprise. I haven’t worked for a long time, so haven’t felt that I was part of something.  The environment here, where everyone is so friendly and understanding, has been a positive thing for me.”

Moving into the bakery as a trainee baker, Steven was hoping to improve his baking skills and his chances of re-entering the workplace by further improving his mental health and building a healthier routine. At the end of this placement, his feedback was that although not yet at 100%, he felt a lot closer than he had been in a long time to getting back to work.

“Next steps will be volunteering or further education. As a follow-on from my degree, I’m thinking about a computer programming course, so am looking into funding for this while assessing my current levels of wellness.”

When commenting on how his experience has influenced his ideas about the workplace, he concluded, “It’s made me feel that I’ve missed having this in my life for a long time. I’ve never worked in a place this friendly before and it made me feel I can get a job where I feel like I’m contributing to society.”