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EMR reflects on two-year anniversary of trailblazing apprenticeship scheme

Jack Arksey

MRGO launch

EMR Metal Recycling is committed to the vision that recycling is the way forward to build a greener world. In pursuit of this goal, we know that people are at the heart of this mission - particularly the metal recyclers of the future.

That’s why, over two years ago, EMR joined with peer companies across the metal recycling industry to form a first-of-its-kind apprenticeship scheme. Its mission was to invest in learning and skills development to drive business growth and continue building a sustainable future. Some 24 months on from the scheme’s inception, the programme is proving its worth in more ways than one.

Built on firm foundations

The idea of an apprenticeship first came to pass after an enquiring parent at a recruitment fair questioned the pathways and qualifications available to those entering the industry.

This spurred EMR’s Learning & Development team to form a working group with 16 other industry organisations - including competing businesses - to build the foundations of the apprenticeship scheme.

Together, the group invested considerable time and energy in working with the Institute of Apprenticeships to stake an expression of interest with the Department of Education, to develop an apprenticeship standard.

After many months of hard work and collaboration, the Metal Recycling General Operative (MRGO) Level 2 apprenticeship was born. Developed with the support of the British Metal Recycling Association, and officially launched in 2018, the scheme has become a resounding success. This was recognised by National Recycling Awards in 2019 when the Apprenticeship standard went on to win Excellence in Learning and Development.

Evolving with the times

The level of collaboration between industry peers, in a competitive industry such as metal recycling, is unprecedented and is one of the cornerstones of the success of the scheme.

This collaboration and the success of the MRGO, inspired the group to develop the next steps in the career pathway and in July of 2020 the Level 5 Metal Recycling Technical Manager Apprenticeship standard was approved.

In helping to bridge the industry skills gap, EMR’s apprentices have ranged from those entering the job market looking to pursue a career within metal recycling, to the development of existing staff. The average age of EMR’s MRGO apprentices is 25 - underscoring the fact that you’re never too young or old to learn and develop new skills.

The success of this programme, across businesses of varying sizes in the industry, shows there is a real cross-sector desire to upskill and improve standards. A core part of its continued success is due to the existence of the Apprenticeship Levy, which funds such schemes through UK-wide employer taxation. This enables businesses - large and small - to confidently invest for the future knowing that the programme is commercially viable and sustainable.

Key building blocks

The MRGO scheme consists of one core module and five optional ones. The provision of these choices presents the employer and the apprentice with sufficient flexibility to match up an existing talent or interest area with the requirement of a real job role. As a result, apprentices can specialise in one of five technical modules: End-of-Life Vehicles, Weighbridge, Material Handler (Specialist Equipment), Material Classification and Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE).

MRGO is a written occupational standard with a qualification at the end of the 12-18 month apprenticeship. This means the metal recycling industry can show that there is an attractive career path for those wanting to join the sector.

Apprentices gain pragmatic experience in a wide variety of tasks and responsibilities, both in the yard and office based environments. This includes receiving specialised experience in the use of industry-specific equipment and plant, fire safety procedures and environmental policies alongside training in hazardous materials and authorized materials.

With the optional modules focussing on hands-on experience rather than theory, the choices will help determine which role an apprentice will be offered after completion of the scheme.

Beyond the apprentice

The programme also provides high levels of support for the apprentices’ personal mentors and line managers, which is provided by EMR’s dedicated learning and development team.

Chris Williams, Head of Learning & Development at EMR, says:

“We are proud of our commitment to apprentices - guaranteeing them the opportunity of a role within the business upon the completion of their programme and ensuring they have a clear career path.

“Those that have successfully completed the qualification are already doing great things in the industry - something everyone at EMR is delighted by. And we are excited to continue to develop and deliver the programme. We will continue to increase the number of people entering our industry and completing this level 2 qualification, allowing them to develop with further qualifications.

“Metal recycling is an industry of the future. We are committed to bringing new talent into this vital industry to continue its growth and positive impact.”