As the father of a physicist, a biologist and an IT specialist, I was curious to see what the political parties published in their election manifestoes regarding revitalising interest in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects.
As the BMRA chief executive, however, I was also keen to see how they would support technical routes such as apprenticeships.
The metals recycling sector needs all kinds of employees – from traders and scientists to engineers and technical specialists. It needs innovators to identify, develop and deliver more cost-effective methods to separate materials further, to deliver tramp-free materials, to recycle products to the nth degree.
It needs highly trained operatives to run the processes, plant and equipment, and traders to sell the metals. They are all needed now and in the future.
Yet to entice all these different types of people into a career in the recycling sector, we have to change mindsets. We must start challenging people’s opinions of the scrap industry at an earlier age by educating them about the benefits of recycling, and showing them how they can play a part in safeguarding the environment.
Perhaps the first step is to help everyone, parents and children alike, to understand the true value of what they are looking at when it comes to a scrap yard.
For example, near where I live, there is one of the ugliest buildings I have ever seen but no-one complains or moans about it because it is a hospice. In other words, the good deeds done within the building far outweigh its appearance.
If young people looked at a scrap yard knowing exactly how it was benefiting the environment, not to mention the economy, they might be more inclined to see an interesting and exciting career opportunity.
But, like any industry, we do not simply want more people choosing to study STEM subjects at school and beyond. We need to attract technically minded candidates who want to get involved with the day-today operations of the yard too.
In fact, the BMRA is working with its members to develop a recognised apprenticeship under the Government’s Trailblazer scheme. Reflecting the highly specialised and varied nature of the work carried out in a metals recycling yard, the industry has identified the knowledge, skills and behaviours that an apprentice in the sector will need to develop.
At the same time, it is important that, as an industry, we support and nurture young people who have chosen a career in the sector. The association recently launched the Young British Metals Recyclers, a forum for those aged 35 and under to come together and discuss the particular issues that affect them.
They are, after all, the business leaders of tomorrow.
Robert Fell is chief executive of the British Metals Recycling Association (BMRA)