Training: Don't cut the budget - change your approach

Claire Poole argues that the credit crunch does not have to mean a training crunch - thanks to more flexible access to skills development

Too often, training is seen as nice to have rather than an essential - especially when budgets are tight. But for a sector such as waste management, which is seeing significant expansion in capacity and technology, now is not the time to cut back.

Take, for example, the imminent introduction of a new scheme for demonstrating technical competence. This will include the requirement for continuing competence for those holding waste and recycling environmental permits. This means that certificate of technical competence holders, and other technically competent persons, will have to keep themselves up to date and demonstrate this knowledge every two years.

Keeping abreast of your duties
There are plenty of legislation changes and developments up ahead too, all of which will impact on training requirements across the sector. Changes to Duty of Care and carrier registration, for example, are likely to introduce new registration requirements. Consultation on exemptions from environmental permitting could lead to new permits.

Add to that the implementation, in the next few months, of the collection and recycling element of the Batteries Directive, the need to be up to speed with the latest Environment Agency guidance on hazardous waste, revisions being made to the Waste Framework Directive - there is certainly a lot to learn.

There are other, more subtle, drivers at work. Once again this summer, the media focused its attention on waste and recycling, with a particular emphasis on local authority practices and competence. Enforcement issues, including fixed penalties and fly-tipping, came under the spotlight. Questions were asked about Duty of Care, and whether the responsibility that councils have to ensure waste is dealt with properly is being discharged.

The spotlight on this area of service provision is not going to go away. For professionals in the waste industry, particularly in the local government sector, it makes an already challenging job even more so. It also brings into play the need for a wider understanding across a range of both strategic and operational issues.

With all this going on, making sure staff members are up to speed and able to adapt quickly to the changes is essential. Continued learning and development is vital for everyone to play their part in keeping businesses and organisations legally compliant - not to mention effective and efficient.

The good news is this does not mean sitting in training courses for days. Flexible methods of learning are becoming the norm - coaching, secondments, e-learning, self directed study, seminars, and conferences. It is not just about the technical skills and knowledge. While some will need to ensure that they can classify and code hazardous waste appropriately in accordance to the latest Environment Agency guidance, others may need to develop or top up management skills such as influencing, decision making and consultation.

Having a stake
Stakeholder engagement has never been so important, with critical decisions about waste treatment options to be made and more sophisticated approaches to be developed to target harder-to- reach audiences.

And let us not forget that a general level of awareness is also important for staff who do not work directly in the waste or recycling field. Even within its own offices, every local authority should be making sure staff can benefit from a better understanding of waste, how it must be handled, what it costs, and how to avoid it.

Claire Poole is education & training manager at CIWM

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