Future skills: where now?

As the industry's future skills and training needs are mapped out, key areas are emerging where action is required. Richard Johnson explains

Health and safety is one of the emerging priorities that the waste sector needs to tackle through improving skills and training provision, according to research from Energy & Utility Skills (EU Skills).

EU Skills has just completed the latest stage of its sector skills agreement, a major research programme to provide evidence-based assessments of present and future skill needs across the utility sector, which includes waste management.

Within the waste industry, there is a need to raise awareness of health and safety issues, with an initial focus on street collection where the majority of accidents occur. Employers and stakeholders within the sector are now engaged with steering groups to help improve health and safety awareness and compliance.

Priority areas

Other areas that need attention are competency, training provision, recruitment and qualifications. Basic essential skills such as literacy and numeracy levels need to be addressed, and operator competence is currently under review.

Draft apprenticeship level 2 and 3 frameworks have been developed and a technical certificate is planned to be operational later this year.

In addition, two pilot schemes on basic skills are proposed and EU Skills is responding, in conjunction with the waste management industry, to Defra’s current consultation on technical competence.

Customer care is also seen as an area where improvements are required, especially regarding interaction with the public on street collection, and the industry’s image needs to be enhanced to encourage recruitment and retention.

In terms of education, the sector sees a need to verify and harmonise the wide variety of courses available and to introduce quality control. Waste management diplomas are seen as a route to future workforce recruitment, and recycling operative NVQ levels 1 to 4 have been developed by EU Skills on behalf of the waste & resources action programme (WRAP).

The waste managment sector faces unremitting change and it is important that a medium-term view is taken of the industry’s needs for the next 15 years or so, to ensure that the forecast skills gaps are eliminated.

EU Skills is now working on the next stage of its programme, collaborating further with employers to endorse its findings and to analyse the skills gaps identified.

>Richard Johnson is strategy & development manager for EU Skills

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