Operators across the mineral products and quarrying sector share many recruitment challenges. These include replacing an ageing workforce, skills retention, and presenting the sector as an attractive choice for today’s school, college and university leavers.
Putting the current Covid-19 crisis to one side, these challenges look set to continue long into the future.
The Institute of Quarrying (IQ), from its position as the membership body for the sector, works hard to engage and influence the whole supply chain concerning recruitment, succession planning and business continuity issues. A current example that continues to grow is IQ’s innovative “Quarry Faces” case studies, celebrating personal career progression through examples of real people working in quarrying.
“Scrape the surface and people will find that quarrying is a truly vibrant and environmentally responsible industry that’s much more than just moving rocks,” says James Thorne, chief executive officer at the IQ. “It’s a high-tech sector that offers a host of exciting and rewarding career challenges.”
“It’s an environment where you can be challenged but also developed into highly skilled and successful professionals. Our growing list of IQ Quarry Face case studies provides inspiration about what the quarrying industry has to offer. But that’s just one small example of the raft of great work that is being conducted by operators large and small to change people’s perceptions and welcome new recruits to this essential sector of the UK and global economy.
“Take Somerset-based John Wainwright & Co. Ltd as a case in point,” he continues. “This local operator is a major employer and has several hundred businesses in its supply chain. Put simply, Wainwright is vital to the regional economy, delivering high-profile work for the likes of Highways England, North Somerset Council and Bath and North East Somerset Council. So, it is in its own interests to promote careers in quarrying to local young people, and that’s exactly what it’s doing, working closely with local industry and the Somerset Earth Science Centre.”
Doing the right thing
Confronting recruitment challenges head-on, Wainwright is investing in a range of initiatives designed to future-proof the sector’s workforce at the same time as developing the skills of fiercely loyal employees.
Wainwright is an independent quarry operator and the only basalt quarry in the Mendip region of Somerset. The company was founded in 1891, is family owned and has a firmly embedded people-centred culture. It directly employs more than 100 people, as well as working with more than 70 lorry drivers and a host of contractors. It’s a major local employer, with many generations of the same family having worked in the business.
Peter Barkwill is chief executive and he explains how it’s the “Wainwright Way” to “do the right thing” by staff, business partners and wider communities. “Wainwright has very strong values that are deeply rooted in our business and our people,” he says. “It’s these values and guiding principles that underpin our success.
“At the heart of our business is a commitment to developing talent. We are extremely proud of our apprentices and learners, who will provide future skills and talent for our business and ensure our ongoing success. We work with a variety of local schools and colleges in educational and careers outreach activities to ensure apprenticeships are a continuous process.
“In these ways, Wainwright is hoping to inspire young people to pursue a career in an industry that offers so many stimulating opportunities for growth. Combined with our existing people, this lays strong foundations for a flourishing future, in which Wainwright continues to build on its ethos of professionalism, personal service and doing the right thing.”
Wainwright is a trailblazer when it comes to engaging with local schools and colleges in Somerset and beyond. As the company’s HR director Lisa Saunders explains: “We want to show young people in the local area how stimulating and rewarding careers can be in quarrying and related industries. So we have a team of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) Ambassadors who are trained to go into schools and colleges and talk about the industry, casting a vision of a bright future in which young people can pursue their ambitions and realise their full potential.”
The STEM programme is delivered in conjunction with a number of other quarrying companies and organisations, including the Institute of Quarrying, Hanson Aggregates Ltd, Aggregate Industries, Morris and Perry, and Tarmac. The team at the Somerset Earth Science Centre coordinates the programme, with STEM Ambassadors regularly undertaking speaking and workshop duties in schools throughout the region.
The Somerset Earth Science Centre
The Somerset Earth Science Centre is funded by the Mendip Quarry Producers (MQP) and is located next to John Wainwright & Co Ltd’s Moons Hill Quarry. It is built on land donated by the company for a period of 35 years, to benefit the community. The centre provides a range of learning experiences for schools and students of all ages, through classroom activities and practical fieldwork in working and non-operational quarry sites.
“Sometimes the STEM Ambassadors talk about their own careers,” says Lisa Saunders, “showing how they have progressed through hard work, dedication and ongoing training. On other occasions, they talk about the work of the quarrying industry: for example, by showing footage of live blasts or explaining production processes.
“Whatever the nature of their input, Wainwright STEM Ambassadors make a profound contribution to educating children and young people in the region and helping to shape their career aspirations. They show that quarrying remains one of the largest employers, offering the chance for stimulating career progression without the need to move miles away from home.”
The scheme also identifies the range of career opportunities available in the industry, including operational roles, health and safety, finance, HR, and communications. It has already led to the appointment of apprentices and continues to generate applications for employment with the company.
In addition to visits from STEM Ambassadors, a number of local secondary schools visit the Somerset Earth Science Centre to learn about careers in the quarrying industry.
Lisa explains: “Although quarrying is one of the largest employers in the schools’ catchment areas, local young people do not always know about the range of opportunities on offer.
“During day-long visits to the centre, we offer quarry tours and talk to the group about apprenticeship programmes, giving them a general introduction to quarrying and the variety of roles available.”
Lisa sums up: “It all goes to show: deliver inspirational insights into a local industry and you’ll empower the next generation to join, grow and drive that industry to a brighter future. That’s what we see day in, day out at Wainwright. It just takes a little self-belief and the confidence to share the fantastic things we do with the wider world around us.”
For further information contact IQ or visit www.quarrying.org