Enhanced educational pathways a win for waste transport industry

“Our sector has a huge gap around specialised industry training,” says WasteMINZ Health and Safety Sector Group Steering Committee member and industry veteran, Greg Dearsly.  “Targeted external training just hasn’t been widely available.”  Committee Chair, Danny McClure, agrees. “Historically, industry qualifications were entirely dependent on being either ‘able-bodied and fit’ or having a class 2, 4 or 5 licence endorsement.”

The qualification structure didn’t suit the waste transport industry, with no active programmes leading to the waste strand in the Level 4 NZ Certification in Commercial Road Transport (Specialist Driver).  This meant that there was no formal recognition of their specialist training.  With the development of new micro-credentials in collaboration with Hanga-Aro-Rau, this landscape is starting to change.  “There have been some significant steps in making the waste industry a safer operational environment, whilst being a more attractive career path for operators,” Danny, who is also the Hastings District Council Solid Waste Operations and Contract Manager, says.

Hanga-Aro-Rau noted a clear industry preference for a micro-credential with a flexible structure to allow for different types of vehicles across several classes.  To enable this, elective options were built into the micro-credential to enable learners to complete it using the vehicle type on which they are training.  This novel, elective structure was approved by NZQA in August 2023.  “Operators now have the ability to upskill on a multi-level points basis that is recognised by NZQA,” Danny says, “and provide individual qualifications that will be recognised by employers so employee remuneration can be reflected accordingly.”

Industry stakeholders have been proactive about approaching the training provider to co-develop course materials for these micro-credentials.  Hanga-Aro-Rau is supporting them, as the subject matter experts, to develop technical training materials through a working group that will be jointly led by the provider and WasteMINZ in 2024.  “WasteMINZ is taking ownership of this training,” Greg says, “which will soon become a unit standard-based product.  While some of the skills required for drivers are consistent across service types, there is a lot of variation in the work; training needs to create a common understanding for those who perform domestic kerbside collection.  It is critical to ensure workers are familiar with the risks they both create and may be exposed to while undertaking this task.”

The hope, Greg and Danny say, is that these new micro-credentials will help to create a stronger and more sustainable industry.   “Like other parts of the transport industry, we are regularly crying out for workers,” Greg says.  “But waste transport is one of those sectors that the public doesn’t think too much about; they just put their rubbish on the footpath, and, like magic, it goes away.

We want to share the huge industry advancements that have been made in recent decades, with our trucks now featuring cutting-edge technology.  Creating a job profile that shows a pathway and a career opportunity will enhance the interest job seekers have in this exciting sector. Increasing professionalism through enhanced educational pathways is an important step towards achieving our goals.”