3 July 2019 by Lucy Pegg

Veolia honours top apprentices and graduates

Passion for environmental issues is helping to drive young people into the waste sector, according to Veolia’s HR director Marguerite Ulrich and head of people development Matt Pitt.

Ms Ulrich and Mr Pitt spoke to letsrecycle.com at the Veolia National Apprentice and Graduate of the Year awards, held in the House of Commons last week (June 26). The event saw seven young employees celebrated for their work within the waste management company.

Apprentice and graduate winners at the Veolia National Apprentice and Graduate of the Year awards, along with Marguerite Ulrich (back row right), Matt Pitt (back row left) and Gavin Graveson (back row centre), Executive Vice President of Veolia for UK and Ireland

Core skills

Speaking to letsrecycle.com Ms Ulrich and Mr Pitt said that developments including increasing levels of automation in industry are among the personnel challenges on the horizon for companies such as Veolia. And, Mr Pitt said apprenticeships give employees a broad skill-set which would allow them to transition into high skilled jobs in response to the changing jobs market.

He said: “Core skills like communication, how to speak, how to network, those sorts of things are in our apprenticeships where before it might have been a bit narrower.”

Both Ms Ulrich and Mr Pitt agreed that concern about the climate crisis amongst young people had driven engagement with their apprenticeships and graduate programmes.

Ms Ulrich said: “That’s definitely been an attraction when we’re bringing in the younger recruits – maybe not even younger, everyone is interested in seeing that, they see what we’re doing and we are saving the planet.”

Mr Pitt agreed: “During the interview process some people say they want to work in a technical role but some say “I want to help save the world.”

“There’s a really compelling story that the organisation has had, has always had,” he added.

Diversity

Communicating Veolia’s story has been a key part of Mike Worth’s work during his apprenticeship – and it earned him the award for Apprentice of the Year 2019.

Apprentice of the Year Mike Worth with Gavin Graveson

Mr Worth has helped produce Veolia’s social media branding strategy #WeAreResources, which has often highlighted its work to encourage greater diversity within the waste industry.

Ms Ulrich believes Veolia’s 300 apprentices – currently aged from 24 to late 50s – develop the inter-generational element of the company’s inclusion work.

Apprenticeships also give people a second chance at education, which Mr Pitt feels is particularly important for their younger recruits.

“With our 16-18s we help them if they had not had a great education, they can get their English and Maths, they can get their functional skills,” he said.

“You need those functional skills so we’ve been able to provide them.”

Other awards at the event went to apprentices Matthew Lowe, for Success in STEM, Robyn Donaghy, for Commitment to Learning, Kathleen Hajbok for Living the Values and Chelsea Massarella for Excellence in Business.

Samuel Russell and Daniel Metherell were awarded the graduate prizes for Excellence in Business and Commitment to Learning respectively.

Training

Speakers at the awards ceremony were keen to champion the benefits of finding on-the-job training through apprenticeships and graduate schemes.

Minister for Apprenticeships, Anne Milton MP, speaking at last week’s event

Anne Milton, Minister of State for Skills and Apprenticeships, praised the boost apprenticeships give both employees and businesses.

“Businesses who have not yet tried it say it’s going to be really difficult and it’s going to be a drain on your business,” she said.

“In fact the opposite is true and once businesses have an apprentice with them they realise just what a fantastic benefit they are for their business.”

Daniel Zeichner, Labour MP for Cambridge, described graduate schemes as “a really valuable bridge between university and working life”.

He added: “On the job training is an important part of a graduate programme and I was very interested to hear from Veolia about some of the things which are offered to all employees, not just graduates, to boost people’s skills and personal development.”

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