Waste management companies will fail to retain their best employees if they do not start investing in training their staff, a leading academic has warned.
Speaking to MRW, University of Southampton school of civil engineering and the environment deputy head Dr Ian Williams said that waste management companies do not appear to want to invest in the education and training of their staff.
The attitude of many of the old guard appears to be I did not need a qualification to degree level to get ahead in the industry, Williams said.
Many people in positions of power within the sector do not have a degree or higher qualifications and do not see the need for them. But the world is a different place now. The UK needs people with advanced technical and professional skills in the waste sector. Most academics who specialise in waste management agree that these skills are essential. There is also the question of succession planning within the sector; younger staff who are in a position to learn and benefit from advanced qualifications are more likely to stay in the industry rather than jump to another if they are given the training.
Williams said that if waste companies did not take the opportunity to retain the best candidates, skilled staff they would look to move to other sectors like energy. He said: The energy sector will be the next big thing and followed by the water sector. They may have even possibly missed their opportunity already.
The waste industry is not poor: it contributes 2-3% of gross domestic product so it cannot plead poverty.
Williams added that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs had invested £400,000 in Masters level module waste management courses around the country but the take up had been pitiful. He explained that there was a need for improved partnership working, smarter approaches to re-use and recycling of materials and disposal of materials in a smart, sustainable and energy efficient fashion.
Given the real public interest in waste issues at present, and real national and local Government support, this is a golden opportunity to upskill the industry.
To use a soccer analogy, the industry has been given a wide open goal and it is in danger of missing from three yards.
Image: Dr Ian Williams