UK metals recycling industry apprenticeship launches

UK metals recycling industry apprenticeship launches

The new program will teach apprentices skills needed to serve in an operations role in a metal recycling yard.

November 8, 2018

Sir Gerry Berragan, chief executive of the Institute for Apprenticeships, London, launched a sector-specific apprenticeship for the metals recycling industry, according to the British Metals Recycling Association (BMRA). 

The Metal Recycling General Operative (MRGO) is a level two apprenticeship open to employees of any age and is a 12- to 18-month assessment covering a number of industry areas that reflect the complexities faced by those working in metals recycling. 

According to BMRA, the pilot phase of the new program features 13 apprentices from ELG, EMR, Recycled Products, Recycling Lives, S. Sackers, S. Norton and Sims Metal Management.

“The British government recognized there’s a lack of apprenticeship training,” says Antonia Grey, public affairs and communication manager at BMRA. So, she says the British government passed an apprenticeship levy a few years ago to help develop training programs, and BMRA hoped to see a metal recycling-specific apprenticeship in England.

“The government apprenticeship levy gives small- and medium-sized businesses the opportunity to train employees in skills that are relevant to metals recycling,” says Susie Burrage, BMRA president, in an association news release. “By supporting the industry from the ground up and giving young people the necessary training in key business areas, we hope that we can plug the skills gap and keep metals recycling at the forefront of the circular economy.”

Grey says BMRA and others first met to discuss a metal recycling apprenticeship in October 2016. The apprenticeship officially launched Nov. 5.   

BMRA reports that apprentices will learn about various areas of knowledge needed to serve in an operative role in a metal recycling yard, including environmental policy and procedures such as fire prevention plans; how to work in accordance with legislation such as the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2013; how to accept hazardous and nonhazardous materials; and industry-specific health and safety procedures.

“The apprenticeship was developed because we recognized the need for sector-specific qualifications, not only to bring new talent into the industry but also to provide a career path for those working in the sector,” Grey says. “The scheme will also allow experienced employees in different areas to pass on valuable knowledge, which is often lost if they leave. The apprenticeship can be tailored to suit yards of any size and, in an unusual move for a level two apprenticeship, we built in the opportunity for the apprentice to specialize in one of five areas: weighbridge, material classification, end-of-life vehicles, materials handling and waste electrical and electronic equipment.

“We see the apprenticeship as a first step in promoting the metals recycling sector as a STEM employer. We will look to work with organizations that promote metals recycling and STEM, with myself and fellow BMRA representatives becoming STEM ambassadors.”

Grey adds that BMRA hopes to expand the apprenticeship to other cohorts in March 2019 if things proceed well with the pilot group. Apprentices who complete the program will be encouraged to join the Young British Metals Recyclers, BMRA’s initiative targeted at those in the industry who are under 35. 

Grey says she hopes the MRGO apprenticeship will improve the visibility of metals recycling, and she encourages other associations and groups in other parts of the world to work to develop apprenticeship programs.

“The idea [of the program] came from figuring out how to show the professionality of the industry,” she adds. “People think it’s a low-skill industry, but there’s a lot of depth to it. You have to understand if you identify metals wrong, it has commercial implications. So, there are a lot of skills in a metals recycling yard. We have to show there is a career path to help with that and it gives a sense of pride—what these guys are doing has an impact on the environment.”