Leadership special – Academy strategy for attracting new talent

The Fife Council Waste Academy aims to bridge the gap in recruitment and provide employment opportunities for clients with known barriers to employment, writes Sandy Anderson, Service Manager − Waste Operations at Fife Council.

The innovative new partnership between Fife Council Employability Services and Environment and Building Services offers work placements within Fife Council’s Waste Operations department, giving clients opportunities to receive practical training in street cleaning and waste management activities as well as industry-recognised training. 

The Waste Academy has been created to provide an opportunity through a supported employability pathway to recruit seasonal workers, fill temporary positions at short notice, and provide Environment and Building Services’ opportunity to identify potential future apprentices for the service. 

The critical goals of the Academy include creating an exemplary model for future recruitment leading to a better trained, qualified, and motivated workforce. It also aims to enhance flexibility in the workforce by developing essential transferrable skills and will explore apprenticeships and bespoke models to support future skills requirements.

The Academy also aims to deliver important employability outcomes that meet key council strategic objectives and maximise training and employment opportunities through the Fife Council supply chain and broader employment opportunities within the sector. It is also hoped that it will deliver efficiencies, savings, and best value approaches. 

The scheme is targeted at unemployed clients who may have known barriers to employment. It provides participants with the tools to assist them in the application and interview process and develop their motivation, skills, and experience, thereby increasing their chances of gaining and sustaining employment. Each programme can support up to 12 candidates, who are invited to attend an assessment and are required to commit to the full schedule. 

The Academy will build on the Waste Operations Employee induction programme and expand on this to offer opportunities to clients who would not usually be given such an opportunity. 

During the course of the Academy programme, each client will complete a range of certificates, work experience, and training, which will form a portfolio recording their achievements and experiences. Included in the portfolio is a work-based employer reference detailing their performance, timekeeping, attendance, and suitability.

Employability Services and Environment and Building Services-nominated staff are responsible for agreeing each candidate’s progression through the programme. This is based on candidates fulfilling their training and employment action plan and demonstrating the required attitudes and behaviours.

All clients who complete the Academy gain a portfolio of certification, which is presented at a graduation ceremony.  

The first clients have already graduated. Of the original nine who started the programme, three have gained seasonal contracts within domestic waste, and two have earned seasonal contracts in street sweeping, a success ratio of 56%. It also means we now have five clients in meaningful employment, who without the Academy would likely have never had this opportunity. 

Moving forward, the aim is to continue to provide opportunities for clients to work in the waste industry who have been trained to a high standard by the Waste Operations team at Fife Council. The Academy will look to run at least three times in any calendar year to maximise the number of opportunities for clients and to allow for seasonal posts to be filled along with short notice vacancies. This will decrease the amount of officer time required for recruitment and shorten the length of time taken to recruit employees.

Within Waste Operations, there is a positive correlation between vacancies being filled and the overall morale of the team, leading to a reduction in short-term sickness absence. The Academy will continue to provide fully trained employees to help fill these vacancies as they arise and means it is unlikely that we will have a shortage of applicants to fill seasonal roles in the coming years. The model is also likely to be adopted for other vital roles in Fife Council. 

If any other councils would like to use this model, please contact me for more information or to arrange to visit and see the Academy in operation.