Real Bread Campaign

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Voluntary placements

No matter how informative, books like Knead to Know, websites like ours and videos are no substitute for working alongside an experienced, professional Real Bread baker.

Due to the study and/or long-term time commitments required by a traditional apprenticeship or in becoming a paid trainee, some people feel that a short-term voluntary placement in a bakery is a more appropriate way for them to learn Real Bread skills.

Other people might find that there simply isn't a traditional apprenticeship scheme suitable for them.

See also:

How it works

This isn’t a one-size-fits-all scheme with rigid rules. Instead it is an alternative option that might be suitable for some would-be Real Bread bakers.

This is a call to all Real Bread bakeries to encourage more of them to take in a keen and committed learner, and some suggestions of how an arrangement between them could work. Our suggestions are intended to help bakeries and would-be bakers to come to a mutually beneficial arrangement for what each will get out of this skills-exchange.

Nor is this intended to replace the more traditional routes of officially-recognised paid apprenticeship schemes, in which a trainee commits to months, or even years, of structured classroom learning alongside on-the-job training, or straightforward learning through paid employment.

If you run an officially-recognised apprenticeship scheme that is totally additive-free please contact us!

What will be taught?

This is something to be agreed between each baker and volunteer.  What each volunteer wants/needs to learn and what each baker/bakery is willing/able to teach will vary. Unsurprisingly, the Campaign asks that the bakery concentrates on practical Real Bread making skills.

Not free bread making lessons

The aim of this initiative is to support the rise in the number of professional bakers making Real Bread available in their local communities, rather than an opportunity for home bakers to get freebie bread making lessons.

If you simply want to learn more about baking for yourself and family, please visit our courses page for people who can help you.

…or a replacement for a paid post in a bakery

The arrangement must be mutually-beneficial, with the volunteer contributing some of their time and energy as part of the bakery's team so that they can learn Real Bread skills. 

If your bakery needs a dedicated full- or -part-time baker to build or maintain your business, you should employ one. You can advertise for paid members of staff here.

Do I get paid?

There is no financial transaction involved.  The volunteer gives his/her time to the bakery for free and the bakery provides training for free.  In the case of a more experienced volunteer, the bakery may also learn from the visitor.

At its discretion, a bakery might agree to provide travel to/from the bakery, meals and perhaps accommodation, or reimburse the volunteer for such out-of pocket expenses. It is up to the bakery and volunteer to agree and understand whether or not any expenses will be covered, and if this does enter the discussion, people should refer to the notes on volunteers and employment law.

The Real Bread Campaign has no funding for this initiative and so has no money to pass on to either bakery or volunteer.

February 2013

For bakeries offering an officially recognised apprenticeship scheme, rather than the sort of informal voluntary placement outlined on this page:

'The National Apprenticeship Service will provide Apprenticeship grants with a value of £1,500 to employers with up to 1000 employees recruiting 16 to 24 year olds, to encourage employers to develop their business and take on new apprentices. The £1,500 is in addition to the training costs of the Apprenticeship framework which are met in full for young people aged 16 to 18 and 50% for those aged 19 to 24. Eligible employers are those who have never employed an apprentice before or who have not recruited one in the last 12 months.'

Find full details at:

Deposit scheme

Although the Real Bread Campaign considers that it is best for an agreement between a bakery and apprentice to be based on trust, some bakeries have suggested a deposit scheme might be preferable. The idea would be that a volunteer pays a deposit, which is returned once he/she has volunteered for an agreed period.

Bakeries should, however, be aware that this may not be acceptable – or indeed affordable – for many bona fide volunteers.

Doesn't this idea exploit the volunteer or bakery?


The Campaign has taken care to give guidance to help ensure that both volunteers and bakers give full consideration to what they expect of each other and to agree a mutually-beneficial arrangement before the volunteering begins.

  • If volunteering isn't appropriate for you, please don't apply to do it!
  • If your bakery thinks this is a way of getting free labour, then this isn't for you!

If an agreement cannot be reached, or either party fails to stick to an agreement, please walk away.

These suggested volunteer arrangements are in no way intended to replace bakeries taking on paid trainee members of staff. We want to see more jobs for local Real Bread bakers, not fewer, but for some people a voluntary placement can be an appropriate part of their learning process.

Is this an apprenticeship?

Technically, no.

If you are an employer and interested in finding out more about the possibility of taking on paid apprentices as part of an officially-recognised scheme, please visit the Apprenticeships UK website.

If you are a would-be baker and interested in learning more about paid apprenticeships, please visit the Apprenticeships UK website.

We have yet to find a course in the UK that offers training in Real Bread skills alone. Those of which we are aware all include teaching the use of artificial additives and other industrial techniques not appropriate to helping to bring Real Bread back to the hearts of our local communities.

If you run an officially-recognised course and apprenticeship scheme that is totally additive-free please contact us!

Length of the voluntary placement

A voluntary placement should last long enough to be of benefit to both the bakery and volunteer.  What ‘long enough’ is depends upon the individuals involved and what both parties feel is fair.

Things to consider:

  • The volunteer is giving his/her time for no pay and might have out-of-pocket expenses for travel and accommodation
  • The bakery is having to commit time to teaching and perhaps even having to make a choice between giving space to a volunteer instead of a fully-productive member of staff
  • Each volunteer will take a different amount of time to reach a speed and proficiency a particular task
  • Over time, a volunteer should begin to make a valuable contribution to the bakery

Campaign ambassador Emmanuel Hadjiandreou, formerly of Judges Bakery in Hastings, suggests that any less than two weeks of full-time shifts would mean the bakery would get little from a volunteer in return for the training it provides.  He also recommends a trial shift for both parties to get a feel for whether or not the arrangement will work.

Clive Cobb at Town Mill Bakery in Lyme Regis feels that it would be a lot longer (two to three months or more) before the volunteer is able to begin to ‘repay’ the training he/she has received with semi-skilled labour.

Trial shift

In order to establish that the arrangement works for both parties, we suggest starting with a trial shift.

Mutual understanding

To avoid misunderstandings and help the voluntary placement to be mutually beneficial (and enjoyable), we strongly recommend that the baker and volunteer meet up beforehand for a proper chat.  We suggest that the following points are included in those discussed and agreed upon:

  • What and how much experience the volunteer has
  • What the bakery intends to teach the volunteer
  • What the volunteer and the bakery hopes to get out of the experience
  • The point of contact at the bakery who will be responsible for supervising the volunteer
  • Whether or not the bakery will provide services such as travel to/from the bakery, meals and accommodation or reimburse the voluntary apprentice for such out-of pocket expenses
  • What food hygiene, and health and safety training the volunteer has and what more is needed
  • Length of the voluntary placement
  • Times and dates of shifts

It is also a good idea to exchange contact details (ideally mobile phone numbers) in case of any problems.

Investment, commitment and respect

Very importantly, this should be used as an opportunity to pass skills on to a future professional Real Bread baker, not as chance for free unskilled labour or a free masterclass for a home baker.

In order for this idea to work, both the bakery and volunteer must be prepared to make a proper investment in the arrangement and respect the investment the other party is making. Both must understand and agree the level of commitment that is to be made. 

The volunteer

The baker is passing on skills and knowledge that have taken many years to build up. You should pay respect to this and the time the baker commits to training and supervision by maintaining a professional attitude, being attentive and doing the best job possible.

It would be unfair to the bakery if you failed to show up as agreed or didn’t follow instructions.

Notwithstanding this, as a junior member of the team you can expect to do some floor sweeping or tea making from time to time while you are learning...

The baker

You should respect that not only is the volunteer giving up his/her time and labour for no pay, he/she might be out of pocket on account of travel, food and accommodation. 

It would be unfair to a volunteer to turn up with the understanding that he/she will be working under the supervision of the master baker, to find that they will be doing mostly menial tasks alongside a less experienced member of staff.


Working with just flour, water, yeast and salt, a Real Bread bakery's recipes and techniques can be key ingredients in its reputation and success. It is perfectly reasonable for a bakery to require a volunteer not to pass on such business-sensitive information to third parties, especially locally.  It is also understandable if the baker does not share certain information with a volunteer.

Volunteers and employment law

The following is intended to make you aware of the situation, not to scare you off. It is likely that the vast majority of volunteers would never consider claiming employee rights.

Unless a bakery intends to take a person on as a trainee entitled to full workers’ rights, including minimum wage, the owner must be careful to understand the law applicable to volunteers.  Two things to avoid are:

  • A contract (whether written or implied) – you should work towards establishing an agreement instead
  • Consideration, which is any form of benefit (monetary or otherwise) received in return for work.

Volunteer law notes

The following key points are adapted from Volunteers and the Law (ISBN 1 897708 30 0) by Mark Restall, published by Volunteering England, 2005

Avoid giving volunteers income
Make sure that volunteers are receiving reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses only, and collect receipts and transport tickets.

Reduce perks that could be seen as consideration
Any minor perks (and this includes training beyond that needed to carry out tasks agreed) that remain should be described as purely at the discretion of the organisation, rather than an enforceable right the volunteer gains as part of the relationship.

Reduce obligations on the part of the volunteer
It’s fine to outline ‘reasonable expectations’, for example express the hope that the volunteer can stay with you for X weeks/months. You can acknowledge that volunteers are free to leave at any time, but suggest that if they stay in the position for at least the specified time so they (and the organisation) will get the most out of the experience.

Don’t make the relationship sound contractual
Avoid using language that smacks of employment. Terms such as ‘contract’, ‘job’, ‘payment’ can be replaced by ‘agreement’, ‘role’ and ‘reimbursement of expenses’. So, for example, rather than job descriptions for volunteers you might have role or task descriptions or outlines.

Make it clear that you don’t intend to create a contract
For example: This agreement is not intended to be a legally binding contract between us and may be cancelled at any time at the discretion of either party. Neither of us intend any employment relationship to be created either now or at any time in the future.

Create a distinction between paid workers and volunteers
This does not mean that you should treat volunteers as second-class citizens in the workplace, or that they should not be integrated into teams or departments. But it should be clear to an outside observer that the relationship between the volunteers and the organisation is different to that between the organisation and its paid staff.

Treat your volunteers fairly
It is worth noting that the tribunal cases have occurred when volunteers have felt that they have been discriminated against or unfairly treated. It therefore follows that a key preventative measure should be to ensure that volunteers have no grounds to bring such cases.

For more information, we suggest that you read Volunteers and the Law and seek expert guidance.

Suggestions for a volunteer agreement

Again this is taken from Volunteers and the Law (ISBN 1 897708 30 0) by Mark Restall, published by Volunteering England, 2005

In an agreement an organisation might commit to:

  • provide a full induction and any training necessary for the volunteer role
  • provide a named supervisor for the volunteer, with regular supervision meetings;
  • treat volunteers in line with its equal opportunities policy;
  • reimburse out-of-pocket expenses where there are receipts or similar evidence of cost to the volunteer.

It is also good practice to

  • provide insurance cover for the volunteers;
  • implement good health and safety practice.

The agreement might expect volunteers to:

  • follow the letter and spirit of the organisation’s policies and procedures, including equal opportunities, sustainability, health and safety and confidentiality.
  • meet mutually agreed time commitments, or give notice if this is not possible.

Example volunteer agreements

Should you wish to use a written agreement, has some sample agreements.

Younger volunteers

Particular legislation and guidance applies to volunteers under the age of 18. See pages 54 and 55 of Volunteers and the Law

Find related information in the Business Link section on employing young people.

Qualification and employment prospects

The Real Bread Campaign is unable to offer any sort of qualification or accreditation to participants. 

As individual arrangements are being made between bakeries and volunteers, the Campaign is unable to say whether or not a bakery might consider taking a volunteer on as an employee.  Any such expectation needs to be discussed and managed before and during the placement.

Hopefully, the skills learnt during a voluntary placement at a Real Bread bakery will either: be taken into consideration if the volunteer applies for a job at a bakery, or make a valuable contribution towards what a would-be baker needs to know to set up his/her own Real Bread enterprise.

Bakery exchange visits

Every Real Bread baker does things slightly differently, so even if you are a baker already, there will be things that you can learn from fellow professionals or that they can learn from you. 

The Real Bread Campaign encourages bakers to visit each other's bakeries and also to arrange reciprocal staff exchanges.

If you're a Campaign member and would like to ask for or offer an exchange visit, you can post your message in The Real Baker-e.

How do I advertise that I can take on volunteers?

If your bakery produces what the Campaign defines as Real Bread and would consider passing on skills to a volunteer would-be professional bakers (or a semi-pro - e.g. running a homebakery to sell loaves locally), please read the information on this page.

If you're still game, then please see how to post an ad on our classified ads page.

How do I get a voluntary placement?

If you are working towards being a professional Real Bread baker (or a semi-pro - e.g. running a homebakery to sell loaves locally) and are interested in finding a bakery willing to offer you a voluntary placement, please have a look at our classified ads page.

Another option is to contact a Real Bread Finder bakery listed on our map that hasn't said they can take on volunteers on the off chance that they might.