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Wanted: inspirational teachers in the resources sector

My daughter’s school prize-giving last week included a great speech from David Cameron, the acclaimed education commentator and former director of children services at Stirling Council.  

Iain Gulland - Chief Executive, Zero Waste Scotland | 28 Jun 13

He spoke about the value of young people to our economy and society and why it is important to balance traditional schooling and nurturing of talents with giving students the space to create their own futures.  To get long-term value from the many years of public investment in our young, he says we must set them free with the tools and abilities to help them shape their own destinies rather than simply trying to fulfil our own.  We should entrust the future into the hands of our children’s learning and ambitions so they can maximise their potential both for themselves individually and for the betterment of our society, our economy and our future.  It was genuinely riveting stuff – I hope my daughter was listening.

He cited a quote, from Eric Hoffer, which particularly resonated with me in terms of our path to Zero Waste:

“In times of change, the learners shall inherit the earth while the learned will remain beautifully equipped for a world that no longer exists.”  

In ten years from now our world will undoubtedly be very different, so designing our resource solutions around current needs will surely limit what can be achieved.  Instead we need to create a culture of learning and innovation that will encourage the continued evolution of new system thinking, new products and new business models to further the shift towards our zero waste goal.  If we don’t embrace this ‘creative’ culture I fear we will be doomed to a cul-de-sac of missed opportunity and burdened with a millstone of unnecessary cost. 

Back at the school, after the speeches had finished, I got talking to other parents about the great teachers we encountered when we were at school.  These were the ones who supported our development and encouraged us individually to achieve our potential, to challenge ourselves and to shape our own future. 

In Scotland, the Curriculum for Excellence enshrines the way that teachers support the development of young people as individuals.  On a basic level perhaps we need a similar ‘curriculum’ approach to nurturing the value of resources through our economy – a framework for getting the best outcomes for materials, without being overly prescriptive and limiting creativity and innovation.

Our new voluntary agreement – Scotland’s Resource Sector Commitment – is perhaps the closest thing we have to such a curriculum.  We want its values to be embraced and embedded into every resource management service the length and breadth of the country.  And then, for it to be a long term success, we want it to be taken on and driven forward by professionals in the industry; to develop and harness our own ‘inspirational teachers’.

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