Waste champions of the future have been inspired as one sector leader tackles the industry’s skills shortage head on.
The waste sector struggles with recruitment with statistics from the Energy & Utility Skills Register showing that across energy and utilities – which includes the waste industry – that 36% of all vacancies are due to skills shortages. The national average is 23%.
To help address this head on, J&B Recycling MD Vikki Jackson-Smith and HR Manager Anne White, spoke to around 300 pupils at a special careers fair in the Tees Valley.
And it’s by seeing Vikki and Anne's success stories that students are helped to consider a future in the sector says John Riddell, Education Manager at the Prince of Wales’ charity Business In The Community (BITC) which organised the event and has been supported by J&B for two years.
Each participating Year 10 and Year 11 pupil at Dyke House Sports and Technology College in Hartlepool were given the opportunity to speak with professionals on each stall gaining an insight into potential career routes in their respective industries.
John said: "We get businesses involved in the community in all sorts of ways - but one of the most successful and with the biggest impact is when we help businesses to get involved with schools and J&B has been fabulous for this.”
The statistics also state the waste sector is also overwhelmingly male dominated – 83% of employees being men.
John said: "Pupils from certain groups are also helped to see their potential.
"For example, Vikki is the manager of a very successful business, with a strong diverse team driving the business to achieve its goals of being the best in the recycling process industry.
"The fact that Vikki has encouraged and promoted successful women into management and board level positions is a fabulous message for teenage girls at this event and gives high aspirations.
"All this can have a great impact. Teachers can talk until they're blue in face but this way the message just gets better received."
Vikki explains that there’s a perception that manual labour is the main requirement for waste businesses – but with rapid advances in technology there is an increased need for skilled engineers.
Ensuring material quality meets ever-changing legislation and the need to produce high quality outputs of recyclable materials means a skilled workforce is required to ensure compliance within the industry.
Vikki said: “Thinking about careers early on is so important – not every student has the support outside of school to guide them into potential career paths and understand the importance of relevant qualifications and the best approach to follow for their desired career route. They need as much information as possible to make their own way.”
Thanks to J&B’s continued support, the students at Dyke House have also benefitted from a number of other BITC projects including careers ‘speed dating’ and careers awareness workshops.
J&B’s support of BITC fits into the Government’s Careers Strategy that states that by the end of 2020, schools should offer every young person seven encounters with employers, including those with STEM employers.
Vikki transformed her father’s solid fuel distribution company into a waste management and recycling specialist that now boasts a £16m turnover employing over 200 staff across three sites in Hartlepool and Middlesbrough.
She added: “If talking to these pupils helps just one student consider the levels of skills required for a future in our industry then I think that’s fantastic and encouraging for us, particularly when we are currently recruiting for skilled and technical apprentices in our business to achieve our growth plans.”
If you would like to make an enquiry or if you require further information please contact us.