Alan Colledge, Senior Manager at Cawleys Hazardous Services discusses the value of engaging with young people and offering career progression and training in the waste industry.
A recent LinkedIn study revealed 74% of candidates want a job where they feel that their work matters. In the UK, Millennials and Generation Z are fast becoming the most significant percentage of the workforce, and are a generation well known for their passion for the environment. Only last month thousands of young people walked out of lessons to protest about the failure of politicians to tackle the escalating ecological crisis.
How can we as an industry engage with young people who are interested in ‘cleaning up the earth’? Most of them will only see one small aspect of the work we do – the waste collection operatives who collect their waste – yet there is a huge, fascinating industry behind it that few people outside the industry are aware of.
Education and sharing information about the many different functions and roles in waste managment is vital.
Logistics and partnerships
For example, those of us working in the sector know that transport is at the heart of what we do, but how many outside the industry understand the complexity and fascinating logistics network that underpins our services?
At Cawleys we have a fleet of over seventy vehicles to collect and transport waste, and our own vehicle workshop to keep the vehicles in top working order. The vehicle workshop offers apprenticeships; we have two people completing them at the moment, and there are excellent career opportunities on the mechanical and automotive repair side of things.
Alongside apprenticeships, there are of course many roles for drivers and waste operatives too. Due to the national shortage of HGV drivers, we should all be shouting about the excellent training and incentives on offer to attract people to these crucial roles. We incorporate the latest technology and working practices into what we do, so people joining our industry will be working in a well resourced and supported sector.
Cawleys was the first waste management company to join the DVSA Enhanced Recognition Scheme for example, and we know from staff feedback that working with the latest tech and IT can be very motivating in the workplace.
People are often surprised that we have women drivers, but the waste sector has a rapidly changing gender and diversity profile. We have female skip lorry drivers at Cawleys, and I know they value the shift patterns of the job as it works around childcare, and enjoy the customer contact and care aspect to the role, something people might be surprised to discover.
Are there training and development opportunities?
The waste industry is a highly regulated environment. For people who like learning and personal development, there are extensive training and progression opportunities.
Some of the qualifications I hold working in hazardous waste for example include the Dangerous Goods Safety Advisor (DGSA); a Certificate in Professional Competence (CPC) which was introduced across Europe to improve road safety and maintain standards of driving and a Chartered Institute of Waste Management / Waste Management Industry Training and Advisory (CIWM/ WAMITAB) Operator Competence certification.
I also hold an Institute of Occupational Health and Safety (IOSH) certificate which is particularly important in my line of work. Many of these qualifications require regular updating and refresher courses so there are always opportunities to keep learning and in touch with new thinking.
Career progression is important to all of us, and when it comes to opportunities in our industry, for bright and hardworking candidates, it’s a great place to be. The best possible example of this is our own Managing Director Phil Gudgeon.
Phil started his working life as a waste operative driving a dustbin lorry and emptying bins. Now he is running Cawleys, a £34 million business employing 250 staff, and is an inspirational leader for us all. Phil is a perfect example of how the industry provides excellent training and career opportunities, across a range of interesting roles.
A ‘normal’ day in waste
For people who don’t work in hazardous waste it can sometimes be a surprise how versatile and varied the job in this particular area of waste managenet can be - no two days are the same. During my time at Cawleys, I’ve been called out to help dispose of everything from a whole fishing boat, a dead rhino and a fighter jet. Every time it’s something different, my team and I have to draw on our experience and skills to identify the best way to deal with different types of hazardous waste.
Each may be covered by a different aspect of legislation, or require a different levels of project management to complete the service properly and ensure the waste doesn’t cause pollution or a threat to health and safety.
The number of different roles and skills required to deal with situations such as these shows how many opportunities there are in the waste sector for people who want a career where they will be actively involved in environmental management.
How can we engage with young people?
We’re always delighted to hear from people who are interested in a career in waste management. Working with local schools and our customers, we offer tours of our MRF where students can see the science and systems at work.
We also reach out to staff at our customer sites, with engagement activities and environmental activation events. Our ‘Small Action, Big Impact’ campaign, for example has been a huge success. Over 300 people pledged on one day at Northampton General Hospital to reduce their use of single use plastic items, and the scheme has just been nominated for an NHS Sustainabilty Award.
It’s not always easy as an employer to offer work experience but I think it’s another important way to spread the word about working in waste management. I’m always keen to hear from someone who wants to learn, and it can be very hard to know what goes on behind the scenes in any industry unless we open our doors a little more.
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