CIWM President spotlights need for improved skills

Education and training in the waste sector was a key priority highlighted by the newly elected CIWM President, Mike Philpott, in his inaugural address to the opening session of the Institution's annual conference at Paignton on 14 June. The CIWM is a leading voice in the recognition for the need for a greater emphasis on improved training and education at all levels in the waste management and environmental profession - a demand that is being met by the growing range of courses, at both vocational and academic levels, reflected in LAWE's latest guide to courses on pages 10 and 11 of this month's special feature which also reports on developments on the training front on page 13

In a wide-ranging and powerful speech newly installed CIWM President, Mike Philpott, ranged over the big issues facing the waste services industry.

He emphasised the need for better strategic direction and skills for the waste industry and repeated the Institution’s calls for some form of strategic waste authority, adding: “We have so many separate government departments, quangos, even professional associations, all with an interest in waste. They need co-ordinating and soon.”

His forthright address emphasised the need to get to grips with planning issues and to undertake an effective review of the Waste Strategy 2000: “We have major targets to reach by 2010 and an even steeper climb to 2013. Huge investment of many billions of pounds has to be made if these targets are to be met and that doesn’t include investment to meet hazardous waste, WEEE or ELV changes. It takes time to get permissions and spend money and I am not confident we can achieve it in time.”

Enhanced skills

He also stressed the importance of enhanced skills in meeting current and future challenges: “The great change in our industry from waste collection and disposal to true resource management has highlighted the need for a dramatic expansion of skills at all levels in the workforce and in management.”

Mr Philpott urged all companies and authorities to support the work of Energy and Utility Skills.

“Most importantly, skills, competence, credibility and responsibility should be the qualities that separate professional waste managers from the cowboys. We need to ensure that employers, waste producers, government and the regulators place sufficient emphasis on these qualities and on cutting out the cheats who do not subscribe to them,” he said.

As part of this process he emphasised the importance of the effective management of staff so that they can reach their full potential, which includes helping them to learn from other professionals.

The CIWM President said:”This Institution was founded because people wanted to share information in 1898. They did it by visiting each other’s facilities and writing technical papers, something we are not very good at today.”

He recalled: “I was lucky enough to be a member of the Class of 74 and am the eleventh President from that group of men and women that took responsibility for waste disposal when the counties became the waste disposal authorities. Casting all modesty aside, we did transform waste disposal in England and we did it by learning from each other and copying from the best. Now we have the example of the Beacon scheme for local authorities where the best pass on their insights to the rest.”

Importance of learning

“We need to follow these examples,” he declared, “and it is a pity that many companies and authorities do not understand the importance of learning in this way and they fail to encourage their staff to attend technical meetings and facility visits. I think they are wrong and they are missing an opportunity that could actually save them time and money in the longer term.’

This life-long learning process lay at the very heart of CIWM’s philosophy, he told the conference, adding, “This Institution is part of building and supporting those leaders and managers that we need – from the first days of young careers to updates for those of us near our ‘sell-by’ date! It’s no use pretending; real waste solutions and professionals and leaders don’t just grow on trees; we have to make them and nurture them.”

Training for health & safety

The President turned to a critical issue challenging the industry today, stating: “Particularly important is training in health and safety as the waste industry has been designated as ‘high risk’ by the HSE.”

He continued: “Fatalities in our industry are too high and are spread across all activities.”

Issuing a warning to managers, Mr Philpott pointed out: “Now individual managers can be prosecuted and there have been several examples recently. If you are involved with the operation of any plant you have to take personal responsibility for the consequences of these operations.”

Universities’ role

Addressing other areas of concern on education the CIWM leader noted that, as regulations became more complex and detailed and processes became more specific, there was a shortage of engineers, chemists and other scientists.

Saying that the Institution needed to work with the universities to overcome those problems, Mike Philpott offered a positive view, saying: “There are some exciting developments in the university sector, such as the partnership between the SITA Environmental Trust and University College Northampton. This has produced five-year programme of research and other activities, including the Warmnet project that is designed to co-ordinate research with other universities teaching waste management.”

The President also said that the Institution had an important role to

play with the Environmental Services Association “because the inexperience

of many waste managers is a real issue.”

He also stated that CIWM

was pleased to work with DEFRA on the Advanced Waste Management Technologies Education and Training Programme.

On the international front, he told delegates that CIWM was working with

the International Solid Waste Association (ISWA) to develop more general professional qualifications which the Institution believed would raise the profile of waste management globally.

Individuals achieving that qualification would have the title “ISWA International Waste Manager.”

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