How to attract the top talent

Tim Balcon looks at the challenges for employers who need to recruit and maintain the best in a competitive market, and ensure staff training remains cutting edge

The waste management industry, which employs around 140,000 people in the UK, has moved rapidly due to changes in environmental legislation and technical innovations and advances. The industry also shares some fundamental problems facing other industries - having an ageing workforce and facing a decline in the number of young people coming through.

There's a growing demand for people who can be innovators and help find solutions, but a limited supply available. What's happened historically is that larger companies have attracted staff using pay and incentives. This is untenable. At the grass roots level there aren't enough people coming through, especially when you consider that the industry will grow as government policy prioritises greener, cleaner ways of treating waste and reducing the reliance on landfill.

Recognising this problem, Energy & Utility Skills (EU Skills) launched the waste industry skills initiative in March to analyse the issues affecting the supply and demand of skills. What is evident is that the industry desperately needs to come together on this and think about how they should recruit as a whole, not just individually. There simply aren't enough skilled people to go round.

In addition, individual companies going it alone not only becomes a costly exercise, which ultimately can have an impact on overall overheads, it also results in vastly different levels of training, skill levels and overall impact. This is where EU Skills can help. What we do and how

we go about our work is simply down to those companies who engage with us.
At the heart of everything we do is our employer-led ethos. We engage locally and nationally, throughout the four nations, with our employers and act as a catalyst to help the industry. We can ensure that skills and qualification development meet the present and future needs, in addition to ensuring that there is quality training provision in place.

Research shows that another fundamental problem remains the image of the industry. People still associate it with bin men and bad smells and they don't recognise the dynamic forward thinking industry for what it is. We need to change attitudes and show people why they should choose to embark on a career in this industry. The campaign needs to start at school and college level.

Our newly launched diplomas for young people aged
14-19 are a great start and should help the process. There's also the new waste management and waste engineering apprenticeships which are being developed. There is also a need for employers to work with universities and colleges. There are a number of graduate and postgraduate courses available, but we need to deliver a real route to jobs in waste.

We have now developed the competence management system as an alternative scheme to the certifcate of technical competence (COTC), which is still available, to demonstrate technical competence. The scheme looks at competence of a whole site or facility and recognises academic and vocational qualifications as well as internal and external training. This is a significant step towards a simpler world of developing the wide range of skills the industry requires.

Tim Balcon is chief executive of Energy & Utility Skills

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