If this type of work interests you, start exploring the field by making candy at home. Fudge, taffy, candied apples, and chocolate covered pretzels are among the sweets you can make in your own kitchen. Is there a candy manufacturing plant in your area? Call to see if tours are available. The Hershey's chocolate plant in Hershey, Pennsylvania, for example, offers tours of their operation to the public. Get part-time or summer work at a candy store or the candy department of a large store where you can learn what products are popular, how the candy is stored and handled, and how to package it for customers. If there is a candy manufacturer in your area, you may be able to get part-time or summer work as a helper while you are still in high school.
Confectionery workers operate machines to mix and cook candy ingredients, to form candy mixtures into shapes, and to package them for sale. Many different machines are used to make the molded, filled, pulled, whipped, and coated candies that Americans consume. Even when the candy making production line is automated, workers are needed to monitor the processing steps. However, some candy making jobs, especially in smaller candy factories, are still done by hand.
Pantry workers assemble, weigh, and measure candy ingredients such as sugar, egg whites, and butter, following a fixed formula. To each batch of ingredients they attach a card denoting the formula used, so the next workers will know what candy is to be made from that batch.
Confectionery cookers cook candy mixtures according to a formula, using open-fire or steam-jacketed kettles or pressure cookers. They load ingredients into the machine and start the machine's agitator to mix them. They then set controls regulating the temperature and pressure at which the candy will be cooked and turn valves to admit steam or other heat. They may be responsible for checking the consistency of the batch and adjusting the sugar content if necessary. When the cooking is done, they empty the batch onto slabs or cooling belts or into beaters.
Chocolate temperers melt chocolate using water-jacketed tempering kettles that alternately heat and cool the chocolate until it is the proper consistency. The workers who operate these machines regulate the temperature, mix and agitate the chocolate in the tank, and test the chocolate's viscosity, adding cocoa butter or lecithin as needed. This chocolate is used in molded candies or as a coating.
After the candy mixture is cooked, it is formed. Some candy is kneaded on slabs and cut into pieces. Rollers knead soft candy into rolls, which are cut into slices and shaped to form bonbon centers. Rolling-machine operators do a similar operation with machines, rolling slabs of candy to specified thicknesses before cutting. Candy spreaders pour and spread batches of cooked candy, such as fudge, caramel, and toffee, onto slabs or into trays before cutting and decorating. The cutting is sometimes done by a machine. Cutting machine operators select and install cutting discs according to the size and shape of candy pieces required. Hand candy-cutters cut pieces manually.
Other kinds of candy must be spun or pulled into rope-like strands before cutting. Spinners and candy pullers perform these tasks. A center-machine operator runs a machine that makes soft-candy centers for bonbons and chocolates. Other machines make different shapes. Ball-machine operators operate rolling machines that form candy balls and disks, and lozenge makers run machines that roll dough into sheets and then emboss and cut it into candy lozenges.
Many kinds of candy are made using molds. Starch-makers operate machines that make starch molds in which gum or jelly candy is formed. Molding-machine operators mold these candies using a mold-printing board. Molding-machine operator helpers feed the candy-filled starch molds onto conveyors or racks of machines that empty the molds, remove any remaining starch from the candies, and deposit candies in trays. Hard-candy molders pour liquid candy into chilled molds to form solid figures such as animals, people, and Christmas trees. Chocolate Easter bunny makers fill metal molds with chocolate, work in refrigerated rooms monitoring machines that spin the molds to coat them with the chocolate, and remove the Easter bunnies when the molds are sufficiently cooled. Another kind of hand molder is a kiss setter, who forms candy kisses using a spatula. Deposit-machine operators operate machines that deposit metered amounts of fluid candy into molds or directly onto conveyors. They must check the temperature and flow of the fluid and weigh formed candy samples to assure they meet specifications. Fruit-bar makers grind dried fruit and shape it into bars.
After candy centers are made, they must be coated, or enrobed. Enrobing-machine feeders arrange candy centers in a specified pattern on a conveyor, removing any malformed items. Enrobing-machine operators run machines that coat candy with melted chocolate or other coatings. They adjust the flow of coating mixture and allow coated candies to cool before further processing. In some plants, candy is dipped by hand workers, who scoop coating materials onto slabs and swirl centers, fruits, or nuts through the coating and then remove them. Sometimes workers called enrobing-machine corders mark tops of machine-coated candies to simulate a hand-dipped appearance. They dip a little semi-liquid chocolate out of a supply container and use it to draw a line or bead on the top of a newly enrobed piece of candy. Other workers do similar tasks. Sanding-machine operators sugar-coat gumdrops and orange slices. Coating-machine operators coat candy and nuts with syrup, coloring, or other materials to glaze or polish them.
Popcorn balls and flavored popcorn are also considered confections. Corn poppers operate gas ovens that pop corn. They measure corn, oil, and salt into the popper and remove the corn when it has popped. Popcorn-candy makers measure ingredients and cook flavored syrup, then coat popcorn with the syrup. Cheese sprayers spray cheese and coconut oil onto popcorn, salt it, and take it to the packing room. Some workers, including decorators and garnishers, use icing or nuts to decorate candy. Others make candy used to decorate other edibles. Marzipan mixers mix almond paste for marzipan cake decorations, which are formed by marzipan molders. Casting-machine operators form sugar decorations for cakes by forcing a sugar paste through a device for molding shapes and depositing the decorations onto a paper sheet.
In some plants, candy makers are responsible for many of the steps in production, including formulating recipes and mixing, cooking, and forming candy. Candy-maker helpers help candy makers by tending machines, mixing ingredients, washing equipment, and performing other tasks. In large plants these jobs are often performed by different workers, under the direction of candy supervisors. Plants also employ factory helpers, who move trays from machine to machine and help confectionery workers in other ways.
After candy is formed, it is packaged, usually by machine, and delivered to distributors and eventually to retail stores.