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The future of metals relies on the next generation

metals recycling

What is the future of the UK’s metals recycling industry? You could ask the same question of a number of sectors. Metals recycling is certainly not alone in having the challenge to capture and transfer knowledge from departing employees.

Research by the British Metals Recycling Association (BMRA) highlighted members’ concerns that – for small yards in particular – family members were either not interested in taking over a scrap metal business or there was no one to pass it on to, which could result in the sale or closure of yards.

Working with member organisations and the Government, the BMRA is looking to secure the future of metals recycling by launching the first sector-specific apprenticeship. It has also relaunched its Young British Metals Recyclers (YBMR) initiative.

“Initiatives like the YBMR help employees to get to know peers who may also be relatively new to the industry, and provides opportunities to see beyond the gates of the yard.”

The Level 2 Metal Recycling General Oper­ative apprenticeship, which recently launched its pilot phase, is open to employees of any age and will give formal on-the-job training. Taking between 12-18 months to complete, the appren­ticeship will cover all manner of areas related to metals recycling.

This includes environmental policy and pro­cedures such as fire prevention plans (FPPs), how to work in accordance with current legis­lation including the Scrap Metal Dealers Act, how to accept hazardous/non-hazardous materials, as well as industry-specific health and safety procedures such as Safe Systems of Work and Control of Substances Hazardous to Health.

The apprenticeship is intended to be a great way to bring new talent into the industry and to offer a tailored, formal qualification – some­thing which the sector has never had before – to new and existing employees. It was developed so that it can be tailored to suit yards of any size. More importantly, as the scheme sees appren­tices working alongside experienced staff in different areas, it is an ideal way to pass on valuable knowledge.

The BMRA was also determined that the apprenticeship should reflect the complexities faced by those working in the industry. So, in an unusual move for a level 2 apprenticeship, it built in the opportunity for the apprentice to specialise in one of five options: weighbridges, material classification, end-of-life vehicles, materials handler and waste electrical and elec­tronic equipment.

Once the apprentices for the first cohort have been chosen, the apprenticeship itself will be launched officially at a special event in London on 5 November. It is envisaged that it will then be rolled out to subsequent cohorts next year.

After completing the apprenticeship, candi­dates will also be encouraged to join the YBMR, the association’s initiative targeted at those in the industry who are under 35 and are passion­ate and enthusiastic about metals recycling. It is suited to any job role, be it in the yard, the office or the lab.

YBMR gives BMRA members a helpful resource by providing learning and develop­ment along with bespoke training, which can enhance their reputation within their company. It provides a valuable opportunity to meet and network with fellow YBMR members, develop their customer relationships and, ultimately, improve career progression. At the same time, members can share tips and ideas about how to get their ideas heard on moving the industry forward.

Chesham-based Recycled Products

henry turner

Henry Turner: I left school at 16 without any qualifications but, luckily, a friend who worked at Recycled Products got me a job.

I investigated the apprenticeship and I think it will be a great opportunity to increase my knowledge of the metal recycling industry. It is also ideal if you are not academic.

I usually work in the metal shed, sorting and processing incoming metals, and I help householders and small suppliers who come to the site, unload their vehicles and weigh their material. I have just recently started helping with promotions and social media for the company too.

To do this job, you need to be physically fit, a team player, have a knowledge of different metals and be willing to try different things. I’m part of a great team. I like that I am helping to save the environment and I want to be a part of the future expansion of the recycling industry.

christopher webb

Christopher Webb: I joined Recycled Products after my GCSEs two years ago. My brother had been working in metal recycling for some time and recommended it to me. Every day is different and I’m learning a lot about the scrap industry and the roles within the business, such as team leader and yard manager.

One of the key skills you need is knowing the difference between metals, because you could lose money by misidentification. Another skill is giving good customer service. It’s great to know that this job is helping the environment.

I’m hopeful the apprenticeship will open many doors in my upcoming career and would recommend it. I’m also glad that I have the chance to do so. In five years, I would like to be a yard manager at Recycled Products.

In the past year, YBMR members have enjoyed a number of visits to different organi­sations within the metallurgy sector, gaining insight into the wider industry.

One well received visit was a tour of the Lon­don Metal Exchange and the trading floor where the prices for metals are set. Other visits have included a tour of fellow member ELG Haniel Metals’ facilities in Sheffield as well as William Cook Cast Products. Both tours gave an insight into the different ways of working with metal and the technology used.

Social events, such as a day at the races, also benefit members, allowing them to network, share knowledge and build relationships with each other.

Mark Vaughan, managing director of ELG Haniel Metals, BMRA director and chair of the BMRA’s legislative policy group, said: “It is important that [BMRA members] invest in the future of the industry and not operate just as individual businesses. The industry is made up of yards of varying sizes, many of which are family businesses that do not have the wider business support of larger organisations.

“Initiatives like the YBMR help employees to get to know peers who may also be relatively new to the industry, and provides opportunities to see beyond the gates of the yard.”

In the future the group, which currently has 30 members, will hold training courses in part­nership with leading providers that can further increase industry knowledge.

Robert Fell, BMRA chief executive, believes that both the apprenticeship and the YBMR will help members gain a competitive advan­tage and safeguard their business: “The future of the industry is dependent on the next gener­ation. These two initiatives give employees the opportunity to become more knowledgeable, better connected and motivated.”

Attleborough-based Mellor Metals

hayley mellor

Hayley Mellor is co-chair of the YBMR

The family business is located in Norfolk on the same site as my family home, so I was brought up around the metal recycling environment. Having worked in childcare after I graduated from university, I came back to work in the office.

Every day is different, and the nature of the industry has given me many opportunities to expand my skills set. Daily tasks range from weighbridge operation, HR and management-related meetings, site auditing, reviewing health and safety, and general site organisation.

YBMR membership, particularly the tours and events, has been extremely beneficial to my development, providing me with a valuable insight and understanding of our industry. It offers fantastic networking opportunities with other YBMR members on the same career journey and the forum to share ideas and thoughts.

Through the YBMR and our BMRA membership, I am more aware of and can keep up-to-date with legislation, regulation, as well as having people to call for advice on any number of day-to-day matters.

Antonia Grey is public affairs and commu­nications manager at the BMRA

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