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New entrants are industry’s life blood

Robert Fell

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.

new careers

new careers

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)

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