Rachel Jones, recently named Apprentice of the Year at the Quality Skills Alliance Apprenticeship Awards in Wales, speaks to Chris James about her apprenticeship experience at waste and recycling firm LCC Wales
What attracted you to the recycling and waste management sector in the first place?
I came across it by accident. I had to abandon my university studies because of a spinal injury, so was looking for another opportunity. I was put on a six week unpaid transfer to LCC, a waste recycling company in Aberdare, Wales.
I must have done a good job because I’m still there four years later, although I get paid now. The job offers me all the responsibility that I love, plus it feels good that I’m helping ensure that our little bit of the environment is kept clean and safe through our work.
Why did you choose to take an apprenticeship?
My boss wanted to take more of a back seat so he needed someone who could look after some of the day-to-day running, such as taking team meetings and keeping risk assessments up to date. An apprenticeship in sustainable resource management was the best way to ensure I had all the necessary skills for such a task.
How did the apprenticeship fit into your life in terms of fulfilling your work commitments while learning?
I was able to complete the theory parts of the apprenticeship during downtime in the office, and the practical elements helped me more than I could have imagined, as now I run a team on the site alongside my desk work.
What is a typical day at work like for you?
A typical day would start off with my morning rounds, I have to ensure the unit is clean and safe and the employees are aware of their daily tasks. I then attend to paperwork, which could include raising invoices and making sure all the consignment notes are correct and complete. Then I continue with more inspections of the outer unit, keeping everyone on task as best I can.
Has working in recycling given you a different viewpoint and do you now promote its benefits to friends and family?
It has opened my eyes to the world of recycling. In school we were not really taught anything about it, so coming to work for LCC was a very different experience. We now recycle at home and when I explain my job role to others I always tell them a bit about recycling too.
What is it like to be a woman in a traditionally male-dominated industry - is this changing?
If it is changing it is doing so very slowly. I find that I have to do a lot of explaining when I tell people what I do for a living, and they find it surprising that, as a woman, I’d be interested in such things. There are some challenges in the workplace too, as some of the older generation of men are not used to having a woman, and a young one at that, telling them how their day at work is planned out. However, now that I am qualified I feel confident in my abilities and able to handle any situation that is thrown at me.
How did it feel to win the award?
It was amazing. It is the first time I have really ever been acknowledged for working hard outside of my own family, so it was great to finally get a bit of recognition.
Would you recommend doing an apprenticeship?
Definitely! It has helped me so much in many ways. I never thought I would be leading a team of employees when I started the course and now I do it without batting an eyelid. I would recommend it to anyone that not only wants to learn, but also grow as a person.
Would you recommend a career in recycling and waste management to others?
Yes, and as more people get involved with recycling it will offer more job prospects to others. But also you are ultimately helping the environment and that is a good feeling to have.
Rachel Jones is deputy facility manager at waste and recycling company LCC Wales. She completed a WAMITAB Level 3 Apprenticeship in Sustainable Resource Management through Smart Development
The WAMITAB Level 3 Apprenticeship in Sustainable Resource Management
By Chris James
This apprenticeship programme is designed to provide individuals with the knowledge and skills required to undertake their role in the waste and resource management industry efficiently and effectively.
It covers a wide range of competencies at team leader/supervisor level for waste management sites including: health and safety, sustainability, emergency protection, risk assessment, setting objectives, planning and monitoring the work of teams, and developing personal performance.
The majority of training is on-the-job at the employer premises working alongside experienced staff, while the remaining training is delivered off-the-job by a specialist training provider, usually on a day or block release basis.
Chris James is chief executive of WAMITAB, the waste management industry and training advisory board
View from the assessor
By Linda Waite
As a direct result of the apprenticeship, Rachel has developed skills that have enabled her to carry out key activities on site effectively, such as undertaking risk assessments. This has resulted in an improvement in Rachel’s confidence, so that she now feels able to identify and flag when systems need improving. This led to Rachel developing a new form to be completed when collecting asbestos, to minimise contamination and ensure the safety of her colleagues.
“Rachel’s new found confidence, supported by the ability to develop new procedures to improve company performance, has led to LCC recognising Rachel as a valuable asset to this small, growing company, providing her with career progression opportunities as a direct result of the apprenticeship.
Linda Waite is an assessor and trainer at Smart Development
LCC Wales is based on a three-acre site on the Hirwaun Industrial Estate, just outside Aberdare. The company offers recycling, training and education facilities in one location, together with waste management services – both hazardous and non-hazardous.
Waste types accepted by LCC include construction and demolition waste; asbestos and plasterboard; wood and green waste; scrap metals and cans; paper and cardboard; confidential waste; fridges and freezers; clinical waste; plastic and PVC; bottles and glass; and chemical waste.