Bridging the gap from landfill to Circular Economy: Talent Attraction in the Energy from Waste secto

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“How the UK handles our commercial and municipal waste is a topic debated frequently in the media and within the industry. With the recent update to the Waste Framework Directive; EU legislation which came into force in July, there is a new sense of urgency to address our national waste. Despite the UK’s exit from the EU, the Circular Economy measures will be adopted within UK legislation with the aim of recycling two-thirds of urban waste by 2035. With a predicted rise of between 3 and 12 million tonnes per year of waste needing to be treated by 2030 in the UK, new technology, skills and processes need to be considered to address the management of waste immediately.

The importance of EfW plants is still clear

Whilst consumers and industry take time to adjust their waste and recycling habits, EfW plants will continue to play an important part in the UK’s energy mix by bridging the gap between the current landfill system and a more circular economy. By 2024, the Global Waste to Energy (WtE) market is expected to be worth USD 43.96 billion. According to an article by Recycling & Waste World in July 2017, the UK had the second largest market in Europe, with around 40 operational plants producing around 6TWh of power. With European Union initiatives to reduce landfills, meet capacity gaps and energy demand, investment in new plants remains essential to the growth of our economy as well as our ability to hit environmental targets.

What is affecting our skills shortage?

With changing legislation driving a shift towards a low-carbon sector and demand for energy increasing, the UK will continue to experience the impact on skills in the sector. Already, the UK energy and utility industries have an ageing workforce issue. In the next decade,  100,000 existing employees are set to retire – currently 20% of sector workforce – and coupled with the expected 90,000 who will leave to find new career paths, it’s predicted that there will be over 200,000 jobs to fill in the next decade. (Energy & Utility Skills)

Replacement of retirees is not the only problem affecting the skills required within the industry. Employers are already finding pockets of skills in high demand. The 2015 Employer Skill Survey reported 36% of employers couldn’t find the talent they required for hard to fill vacancies due to a lack of proficient skills – above the 23% national average. The challenge for UK businesses will be to keep pace with technology and have the skills ready to meet the increasing energy demand, hit environmental targets and remain globally competitive.

Solutions for attracting talent

Labour demand already exceeds supply and the focus needs to remain on ways to attract the right skills to the sector. Heavy reliance on immigration to provide a skilled workforce will undoubtedly hit a stumbling block with Brexit looming, and better solutions need to be implemented to continue to attract the right skills.  Transfer of knowledge from retiree to those entering into the sector is one way to address the issue, whilst commitments from employers to invest in apprenticeships are another. Investment in education at an earlier stage is also vital and showcasing the sector as an attractive place to work and Engineering as an exciting and interesting subject needs the support of employers and schools to improve the talent pipeline of tomorrow.

But as much as these solutions need to be implemented, we also need to think about what we can do now to attract talent, and there are ways in which we can do this but working with a specialist recruitment consultancy that understands the needs and requirements of the sector can be extremely beneficial to businesses. There are many candidates with transferrable skills that work in different sectors and understanding what these are and how to sell the benefits of moving to the EfW sector is key to making this a success.  Not only that, but a good recruiter will know where to look and how to attract their attention. 

My talk at the exhibition is aimed at making you think about the do’s and don’ts when planning to attract talent for the construction or operation of such a plant in the UK.  This knowledge is based on 17 years of experience of the sector and in that time, I have seen many a good, bad and ugly campaign and aim to share these experiences with you.”

To hear more about attraction methods for the EfW sector from Terry, visit the Energy from Waste theatre at 12.30 on Thursday 13th September at the RWM Exhibition at the Birmingham NEC, or to discuss your recruitment requirements visit our stand at 5C100.