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ADRIAN Sonter left school at 15 and went straight to work kneading the dough at Maclean's Hot Bread shop.
It wasn't his first choice of work - "I wanted to be a diesel mechanic, or a fitter and turner” -but when the job came up at the Maclean Hot Bread Shop, he took it.
Almost 30 years later, he and partner Katrina Gregor have owned the Maclean Hot Bread & Cake Kitchen for the past 12 years, and despite the early starts said there always something to look forward to.
"When you get in at night, there's nothing, but when you leave, it's all out there ready, and you made it. It's a good feeling.”
So when he is told that according to a federal labour market report 35 per cent of job vacancies in regional areas are filled, he nods his head in frustration.
"The last few times we've had jobs going, I really wanted a tradie (qualified baker), and you will not get an application,” he said.
"Out of the last 20 apprentices that we've had, we've had maybe two finish.
"It's not a great success rate.”
The shop is currently advertising for an apprentice baker to start, and Mr Sonter said that despite there being talk of high unemployment, he has had just two applications for the entry-level position.
A senior Department of Jobs and Small Business spokesman said employers indicated undesirable working hours, difficult working conditions and relatively low pay could be behind the baker shortage.
According to the report, trainee bakers average between $20 and $25 an hour, while experienced bakers can take home about $35 an hour
Mr Sonter admitted at first the late starts did take some getting used to.
"There's no sugar coating it, the hours are different and for the first six to 12 months it's hard,” he said.
"On the flipside, my blokes who worked (this morning)... they're out having a weekend. They go home, have a sleep and have the weekend.
"If you were working normal hours, they'd still be a work. If you want to do something during the day it's perfect.”
Mr Sonter said they'd even had people who had agreed to come on board not even show up for their first shift, something he finds hard to believe with the current state of employment.
"It's not hard work, but it's busy. We put out 500 loaves a morning, plus the cakes, and it is a busy shift, but a lot of the machinery has taken a lot of the hard work out of it,” he said.
"If you had someone finish their time, there are jobs everywhere as a baker ... or even open up themselves.
"We're certainly not expecting every 17-year-old to come here and think I could open up my own business one day, but they could.
The Maclean Hot Bread & Cake Kitchen are keen to hear from any school leavers to fill an apprentice baking position
This is a full-time position with no experience necessary, just enthusiasm and a positive attitude towards learning your trade.
Email your resume to firstname.lastname@example.org