There is no doubt that the circular economy approach to resource efficiency is gaining momentum across Europe. However, Marcus Bauer, MD of Remondis UK, questions whether the industry has addressed the emerging skills gap which may draw a halt to progress. CIWM Journal Online Exclusive
As a sector, the waste industry has come a long way in the last decade. It has shown its ability to innovate, as well as work collaboratively towards zero waste to landfill targets and realising the dream of a circular economy.
However, if this progression is to continue, the industry as a whole needs to look towards future generations in order to carry forward this momentum. Collectively, we’ve moved away from being seen as an industry that is dirty and unskilled, but there is still more that needs to be done if we are to inspire and engage young people to want a career in waste.
The collective voice of the industry needs to shout from the rooftops about the variety of job opportunities that are available across the waste industry. There’s business management, lab technicians and everything in between to entice a huge pool of talent. As an industry that is developing and evolving with vigour, there is also huge potential for career progression once the initial step to get involved in the industry is taken.
The skill requirements in our sector are changing. As the industry moves away from the traditional landfill approach, we are now seeking more technically-skilled, operational staff, as well as those who are business-focused. With this in mind, there is real potential for the waste industry to become a highly skilled workforce and a career-based industry.
If this is to be the case though, there must first be further education on the real potential that lies within our waste industry. If the environmental and economic benefits of maximising the opportunities in our industry are communicated more effectively, as they are in other European countries such as Germany, the next generation will be more likely to take an interest in pursuing a waste-centric career. So, as an industry, we need to work closely with schools and universities to push this message and help young people understand the importance of better waste management in regards to securing a more sustainable, environmentally sound future for all.
In addition to our own efforts, the government needs to give the waste industry its full backing and shine a light on its potential in an economic sense. Better education across the UK is key to securing the next decade as one of sustained growth within the industry. If we invest in a better understanding of current feedstocks, more can be done to maximise the use of waste streams as a resource. In order for this to happen, action must be taken by the government. If the financial benefits of making waste streams a viable resource are communicated effectively, the younger generations are likely to take a keen interest in pursuing a career in our sector.
In order for us to secure a prosperous future for the industry and ensure we have a healthy number of fresh new minds entering the sector, we need to invest now in publicising our successes. Reinforcing waste’s credentials and making clear its true potential is key; for the environment, for the economy and for the next generation as a whole in the long run.