Future waste leaders: WRIQ

Future waste leaders: WRIQ

Though its Future Leaders program, WRIQ is committed to mentoring the next generation of circular economy thinkers and waste experts. CEO Mark Smith explains.  

It’s widely cited that the concept of mentoring originated in Homer’s Odyssey, with a character named Mentor guiding Odysseus’ son Telemachus through the Trojan War.

Others link the concept to the Middle Ages and the beginning of guild and trade apprenticeships. While the idea of mentorship has certainly shifted since then, the power of the relationship continues.

The Waste Recycling Industry Association of Queensland’s (WRIQ) Future Leaders program is set to deliver hands-on experience as it takes participants through a journey of self discovery, explores emerging waste and sustainability issues and equips participants with awareness and tools for the future workforce.

The program is currently seeking expressions of interest from mentors and mentees nationally and from within Queensland.

According to Mark Smith, WRIQ CEO, aspiring professionals within Queensland will be matched with experienced and thoughtful senior leaders for 10 months.

“During this time, the mentee/mentor relationship will be fostered through meetings and events,” he says.

“The mentee will have additional opportunities to grow their professional networks and skill by participating in unique learning and development experiences.

“These experiences will also enhance their understanding of the attributes of the future leaders in not just our industry but the future workforce, which we know needs to embed human connection, mental health and broader wellbeing as core leadership values.”

The program is targeted at future waste, recycling and circular economy leaders, but with the sector connected to every aspect of the economy, Smith expects other participants looking to increase their sustainability credentials.

“You will not find another leadership program like this,” he says.

Recent data from the Queensland Government shows that the state generates 10.9 million tonnes of waste across households, commercial, industrial, construction, hazardous and liquid materials each year.

The Queensland waste and resource recovery sector employs over 12,000 people and indirectly supports over 1500 Queensland businesses.

While providing an essential service to the state, Smith says the sector creates jobs and has vast environmental and social benefits.

“However, waste management is one of the world’s biggest challenges, with some global experts predicting a doubling of our sector over the next five to 10 years. We are a sector of the future in Queensland,” Smith says.

“This trajectory drives the need for effective regulation and investment in local waste and resource recovery opportunities, but also in people to forge effective relationships, create solutions and work with every other part of the economy to achieve the outcomes we all want”

Smith notes that the forthcoming ban on waste exports and the COVID-19 pandemic has greatly increased business costs and emphasised the need for Queensland to rebuild a safe, smart and sustainable local industry.

“Our workplaces have already seen major disruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic and this has provided a compelling real-time example of how our workplaces will need to be flexible and adaptive while maintaining connection and wellbeing,” he says.

“These challenges, however, present a great opportunity for future leaders to step into the waste and resource recovery industry with confidence of growth and investment.

“They can move forward with a circular economy approach to waste and resource recovery, build partnerships across community, business and government, rebuild business based on the triple bottom line and be resilient through the challenges our collective future holds.”

The Future Leaders program is open to WRIQ members, other Queensland businesses, residents and non-WRIQ members. Contact mark.smith@wriq.com.au for more information.

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