Skills of the trade

Written by: Geraldine Faulkner | Published:

Training and development can be a hot and even emotive topic – for individuals, employers, training providers and the policy-makers in government – and it seems to be in a constant state of flux, writes Chris James, CEO of WAMITAB

One of the current challenges is apprenticeships, which are about to undergo a dramatic change in England. The implementation of the Apprenticeship Levy from April 2017, payable by those employers with an annual wage bill of over £3m, is creating some planning headaches for human resource departments that have been tasked to make sure they get best value from the levy to maximise the potential of their staff, from new starters to senior managers.

The levy is UK-wide, but education is one of the devolved powers, so there is no one-size-fits-all approach as to how the funds from the levy will be made available in each of the home nations. Instead, employers will have to get to grips with four different systems – England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

In England, the Apprenticeship Levy heralds a new approach to funding for apprenticeships which is designed to put employers firmly in the driving seat and marks the transition from the old-style apprenticeship frameworks to the new standards. This transition is aimed to be fully completed over the course of the current parliament.

Waste and recycling apprenticeships

Work has begun on a new standard for waste and recycling operations by a group of industry stakeholders led by Veolia. They have completed the first stage of the apprenticeship standard development, which involved submitting an expression of interest (EOI) outlining the key elements of the proposed standards at Level 2 and Level 4. Feedback
on this EOI is imminent, and once that has been received the work can enter the next phase, which is the more detailed work around content, coverage and the assessment process. This is likely to take six to nine months and it is hoped that new standards will be available for
delivery from early 2018.

The existing frameworks at Level 2, Level 3 and Level 4 are still available for the time being and funding bands at £1,500, £2,000 and £3,500 respectively have been allocated and will be applied from May 2017.

Post-16 skills

The other big change on the horizon in England is implementation of the concept developed in the Sainsbury Review and the subsequent Post-16 Skills Plan, which was published in July 2016 and outlined a proposal for 15 technical-vocational pathways. It is intended that these ‘pathfinder’ routes will start to be taught from September 2019, with the remainder being phased in from September 2020 through to September 2022. The recent Spring Budget announced new money for technical education to fund what some national newspapers have called ‘T-Levels’. The government said it was “the most ambitious post-16 education reforms since the introduction of A-levels 70 years ago”.

The aim is to give the so-called T-Levels parity of esteem with the academic A-Levels.

The 15 pathways include some obvious groupings of careers and some less obvious – waste and resource management will probably find its new home under the banner of agriculture, environmental and animal care. This does not mean that there will be just 15 qualifications, but rather 15 routes with multiple occupations within them.

Qualifications and skills

The work undertaken by the Sainsbury Review is one of many surveys of vocational and technical skills that have been undertaken in the previous 15 years. Indeed, these areas are under constant scrutiny, and the UK is often compared unfavourably with countries such as Germany in terms of skill levels and productivity.

However, it is important that the constant change and revisiting of skills and qualifications and the attacks on their validity does not put off employers and individuals from investing time and money into them. There is value in making the investment in terms of positive impacts on profitability and productivity and for maintaining a good health and safety record, and especially importantly for the waste and resource management sector in terms of compliance with regulation.

For those not involved in skills and qualifications it can seem overly complicated and confusing, which is reflected by the proposal to create 15 core technical pathways to enter the world of work. However, it is probable that Sir Dominic Cadbury’s line, that “there is no such thing as a career path; there is only crazy paving and you have to lay it yourself”, will remain an accurate description of a person’s route into employment and how they progress through it.

The era of jobs for life has disappeared; it is increasingly common for people to start work in one sector or job role and move to another, which, taken with the fact that people will be working for longer – until 70 for those currently in their 30s – makes it more likely that further study or a qualification to update or acquire new skills will become the norm, and a commitment to lifelong learning will be essential to maintain employability.

So, how to make sense of it? In terms of regulated qualifications there are different levels – from entry level, which as the title indicates are for those new to the workplace, or an occupational role through to Level 8, which is a doctorate in England; the levels are slightly different in Scotland, but conform to a similar pattern. In simplistic terms, a Level 2 qualification is for operatives, Level 3 is for supervisors and Level 4 and Level 5 are usually for those seeking promotion or already in a management role and looking to improve or formalise their skills.

While all the changes are going on it can be tempting to consider waiting for the dust to settle, but those seasoned in the world of education and skills will advise that this is somewhat a vain hope. Change is a constant and the motto of carpe diem probably describes the best approach to skills development. Do it now!

While the label of the qualification may change, the underlying content and learning outcomes are likely to remain similar as the approach in vocational education is for those developing the qualification to work with employers to identify the skills required to function well in an occupational role and then design how best to achieve those skills.

Recognising excellence

WAMITAB is proud to be sponsoring the 2017 Waste and Resources Learning and Development category of the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM) Sustainability and Resource Awards for a third time. See fact file below.

The Roger Hewitt Learning and Development Award recognises the contribution an individual or team has made to learning and development within the waste management sector.

This award was named in recognition of Roger Hewitt’s long-standing and tireless leadership in skills and competence for the waste and resource management industry. In particular, he championed the creation and development of WAMITAB – the awarding body at the heart of the industry – and was its chairman until September 2016.

The deadline for applications for this year’s award is Friday, 1 September 2017 and an application form can be downloaded from the awards website at

Fact file: Roger Hewitt Learning and Development Award 2016

Last year’s awards saw a strong field of entries from a range of areas including colleges, training providers and waste management companies.

The overall winner in 2016 was Milton Keynes College for its offender learning programme, which operates in 28 prisons across the Midlands and South regions. The offender learning team was keen to introduce a new skill set to learners and change the perceptions of its partners within the prisons regarding waste, recycling and sustainability. Through the employment academy model, Milton Keynes College works in partnership with a number of well-respected employers to provide realistic training provision and sustainable employment opportunities for learners.

Deputy director of innovation and development Maxine Bennett said: “Our work providing education in prisons aims to provide offenders with qualifications that employers expect to see in their workforce, helping them to secure sustainable employment on release. It shows we’re equipping prisoners with the skills they need to hold down a stable job in waste management.”

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