CIWM'S New Member Network lays the foundations for the sector of tomorrow

Written by: Adam Read | Published:
Adam Read, external affairs director at SUEZ

I always look forward to May.

Not because the weather starts to turn for the better, or because the athletics and cricket seasons kick in to gear, but because it is the spiritual home of the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management’s (CIWM) Annual New Members Network (NMN) two-day conference and site tours.

As an original member of the London & Southern Counties ‘next generation group’ (the forerunner to the NMN) back in 1995, I have participated in many of these events over the years as a delegate, speaker, rapporteur, and mentor supporting my junior staff development.

Each year the location moves around to make it more accessible to the younger and newer members of our sector, so I was delighted to accept the invitation to this year’s event in Bristol.

So what’s it all about?

The NMN is designed to help those that have recently entered our sector to learn about the sector in its broadest sense, spend time with a new peer group who they can grow up with as they progress their careers.

They can also learn from a few of the more experienced members of CIWM who are invited to share their experiences and insights about becoming chartered, career opportunities in the sector and any number of technical issues that are hot at that particular time of the year.

This year the key themes were diverse but very topical: Behavioural Change and Effective Communications, Deposit Return Schemes and Plastics Taxation, Global Waste Issues and working overseas, and Materials Quality and Commodity Markets.

In addition to the conference sessions and panels, there were a number of opt-in workshops on an even more diverse range of issues including offensive wastes, waste crime and innovation in waste handling.

There really is something for everyone and it is a great entry point to what is important in the sector now, and in the coming years, which is why when I was in consultancy, I was always so keen for my junior staff to get involved from one year to the next.

This year, I also hosted more than 40 delegates on the second day as they visited our Severnside EfW on the outskirts of Bristol, providing some of the delegates with their first ever trip around the inner workings of a modern energy facility.

From the chat on social media it would seem the visit really did round off a good 48 hours in the SW for the delegates (both old and new). I would like to thank all those who joined us on site for asking some great questions which no doubt improved the learning experience for all.

Looking back

I have been fortunate over the last 20 years or so that many of the peers I met back in the late 1990s at these events have remained in the sector and are now my colleagues, my clients, my friends and in one special instance my partner.

I have built up long lasting relationships that can only be forged from sharing experiences, whether they be late night debates about European Waste Classification Codes or the benefits of source segregated recycling, or from coffee fuelled quizzes which get the adrenalin running.

But not only did the significant networking time help me develop a huge web of relationships that have proved useful to this day, it also gave me the opportunity to interact with CIWM Presidents, and any number of waste sector legends over the years, broadening my horizons and testing my perceptions time and time again.

This event and the NMN peer groups that were formed have certainly helped my career and has provided me with mentors and guides who have been critical in shaping my personal and professional development.

So I would like to take this opportunity to thank the CIWM, its staff, and all those former and current NMN delegates who have committed their time (and in some cases their own money) to make these events happen.

Former events would have been nothing without committed participants, compelling and motivational speakers, supportive companies and employers and open-door sites. We are fortunate to work in such a supportive and encouraging sector.

But in my world ‘you get what you put in’ which holds true in our sector today just as much as it did 20 years ago. I was glad to see so many of the delegates making the effort to get a bursary to attend, giving up their own time to be there, and utilising the experience fully to network with potential employers and learn from sector leaders. Well done everyone, I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

A call to arms?

CIWM have always subsidised the event and sought out sponsorship to keep the fees down. Where else can you get two days of content, accommodation, excellent networking opportunities, food and a quiz with real prizes for £150? (Other than LARAC perhaps).

I implore all the big employers in the sector to dig deep next year and offer up sponsorship of the event, the dinner, the site visit, or just have a stand on show throughout the event. This will ensure the price is kept down and the event can continue to build momentum for what will be a new crop of ‘wannabee waste managers’.

So if any ‘wannabee waste and resource managers’ are out there and have ideas about the proposed event in May 2019, then drop me a line. I am interested in hearing about possible speakers, new hot topics and potential venues and site visits. Don’t be shy!

And as many of you will know, I have recently been elected as the newest Junior Vice President of the CIWM, and will in October 2020 become President, becoming the first of the original NMN crop from those early regional events and the first national conference in Loughborough in 2000 to make it to the Presidential Team.

I hope I can inspire and encourage others to come through the ranks, just as I was back then, and I wonder how many of the 80 plus people I met at this year’s event are thinking ‘one day I could be President’. And if they weren’t, then they should be.

Our sector is changing, and in my Presidential manifesto I wanted to re-position the NMN at the heart of the Institution’s future. Our sector is changing, with new policies, new technologies, new supply chain, and a few new problems. This will need a new workforce who have different skills, different perspectives, and different ideals.

The NMN of today are the sector leaders of tomorrow, and I will do all I can to integrate the NMN into the heart of the CIWM raising their profile and getting their input into solving the big issues of the future.

With so much changing, our sector will never look the same again, and harnessing the youth of our sector today, can only help solve many of the sector’s as yet undefined problems of tomorrow.

I remain young at heart and a life-long new members’ network champion. As such I look forward to seeing some returning faces next year, and a crop of new up and coming professionals, ready to learn, ready to challenge, and ready to drive the sector forward.

Adam Read is external affairs director at SUEZ


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