Society sets a sturdy frame on what career paths are most valid for a student of today, and as a result most parents and children alike see Engineering, Law or Medicine as their only option of getting ahead in life.
Most of those who can reach the percentages required to pursue these fields go onto achieve these dreams, but what about the able yet average student? Are they to be eternally left behind thinking that there is no more opportunity for them?
A man motivated to changing these social perceptions in his field, Ranjan Amarasinghe, renowned pastry chef, lecturer and the Principal of the Prima Baking Training Center (PBTC) in Rajagiriya who has been at the helm since its inception six years ago and former Principal of Masterline Baking Institute (Unilevers Ceylon Ltd) said that things have certainly changed in Sri Lanka and there was variety and value available for students in non-conventional fields, especially the field of baking.
Providing a niche
"What most people have not realized is that Sri Lankans are considered one of the best hands-on skills in world accepted professions like carpentry, masonry, farming, cooking and baking. There is so much opportunity out there for the youth of today," stressed Mr. Amarasinghe.
The PBTC and Prima's focus objective cohere with this, providing a niche where the Sri Lankan baking industry develops, producing quality students to master the industry, who can ultimately provide a superior product with high standards of hygiene, while opening the doors of opportunity in their sphere.
"There is a lot more to baking than what you see in bakeries. It is a combination of Science and Technology and like any other leading profession it has its own diplomas and degrees that people could follow and develop a rewarding and recognized career," said Mr. Amarasinghe.
He explained that unlike major professions, a baking career was more easily accessible because it was a line of work that required average educational qualifications, since it is based on an individual's hands-on experience and creative talent.
"We have seen quite a number of students who are unable to pursue their higher studies, take on baking and go on to hold very high positions, as Pastry Chefs, Catering Managers, Food Research officers; in Development posts and Plant Managers handling high tech bakery positions worldwide," he said adding that what was noteworthy was that they are as highly paid as some of the leading professions in society.
Mr. Amarasinghe is a Graduate from the American Institute of Baking (AIB) Manhattan, Kansas, USA in Baking Science and Technology and UFM Baking and Cooking School, Bangkok, Thailand. At present Mr. Ranjan is a master assessor and master trainer for TAFE SA Adelaide North Institute (under the Australian Qualification Framework). He holds Certificate Level III in Food Processing (Retail Baking - Combined) and Certificate Level IV in Training and Assessment.
He has worked in countries including the US, UK and Australia and has more than two decades of experience in the baking industry. "Having spent time abroad, I have seen that there is so much potential for Asian bakers, especially Sri Lankans. There is a need for more people in those countries and we can provide them - not merely bakers, but bakers with qualifications," he explained reiterating that as Asians if we were able to persevere with our greater talents we could take full advantage of the opportunity available.
What is on offer
PBTC is a brainchild of Primus Cheng - Chairman of Prima Group with a vision to develop the baking industry in Sri Lanka by providing quality training. The PBTC is supported by the Baking Industry Training Center Singapore, and has successfully trained over 2000 students since 2004 in all departments of baking and patisserie where they have gained great success in both local and international levels.
The course Baking Principles is important for people in the industry with experience seeking formal education. This is a special tailor made programme for bakers and bakery owners, on all updated techniques in processing and ingredient functions.
Diploma in Baking are for school leavers who are interested in having a successful career with recognized qualifications.
Fundamentals in Baking are for those who need to have immediate employment overseas to support their studies or careers. It can also be helpful for housewives, hobbyists, new investors wanting to start businesses and people wishing to change professions as well and is a weekend course that continues for six weeks.
Customized Courses are baking training programmes tailor made according to customer needs, specifically made to suit their requirements.
The Certificate in Cake Decoration is a 14 day course specially designed for those seeking opportunity to learn cake decorations and sugar craft, including wedding, fancy and birthday cakes.
Advance Fundamentals in Baking is a great opportunity for those who need to get a National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) and PBTC does Level 3 and Level 4.
Advanced Baking on the other hand is for those Commies and Pastry Chefs employed presently in star class hotels looking to upgrade their knowledge.
The PBTC is:
Affiliated with the Tertiary and Vocational Educational Commission of Sri Lanka as a Grade A Qualified Institute. It is also a TAFE recognized institute affiliated with TAFE South Australia and is affiliated to the Baking Industry Training Center (BITC) Singapore which is one of the leading baking institutes in Asia.
All lecturers and teaching staff have undergone special training in the field of baking and have very high qualifications and experience.
The PBTC has state-of-the-art facilities in both teaching and practical training, which includes well equipped lecture halls, workshops, demonstration areas, a library and cafeteria facilities as well.
"It's the time for the youth to take the opportunity. In getting these same qualifications abroad one has to pay far more that what PBTC asks for. Now a student is actually able to get qualified right here in Sri Lanka at an affordable rate," said Mr Amarasinghe.
PBTC at the moment is calling for the 1st quarter intake of 2011. Those interested can call 011 2882838 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more details on the Training Center you can log onto www.prima.com.lk
In the good old days, baking was not a lucrative career. However nowadays, baking is recognized and there are good opportunities both locally and internationally.
My experience in meeting celebrity chefs is that they are highly recognized in society and carry great pride in what they do. Their exposure to international events is great with opportunities to participate in competitions and global job assignments.
Baking is considered as one of the oldest professions in the world. Therefore, with the history of baking there is no limit for achievement.