Streamline - Spring 2014 - (Page 7)
BY PAM BAUGHMAN, VRWA PRESIDENT
How Are We Going to Fill that Position?
WHILE SITTING IN a training class several years ago, a speaker was informing the attendees that "the
average age of water and wastewater operators is fast approaching the age of 60." I remember thinking
to myself: this guy is crazy, he doesn't know what he is talking about. Then I began to think of my
utility, my water and wastewater operators and how old they are, and then I realized the speaker was
absolutely correct and that he did know what he was talking about. That was certainly a wake-up call!
the torch will
to be passed
on to the next
need to work
and training the
At the time of this training class, my utility
had a general manager, chief wastewater plant
operator and chief water plant operator all the
same age within a three month time frame. All
three would retire in the same year! These three
employees are "baby boomers," and according
to Pew Research Center, "every day for the next
19 years, 10,000 baby boomers will reach the
age of 65."
How do you replace that level of knowledge,
skills and abilities? Where do you even begin?
My utility decided to start with the local high
school, seeking candidates for paid internships.
We were looking for students that did well in
math and science (biology and chemistry) that
preferred vocational, on-the-job type training.
A student or two that either didn't want to go to
college or if college was simply not an option
for them. Phone calls were made to teachers,
guidance counselors and vocational instructors.
The responses received were shocking to say
the very least - nothing, nada, zero. How is it
possible that either the school officials felt there
were no graduating students qualified or no one
would be interested in a full-time paid position,
with benefits? Several attempts were made, there
was even some begging, and no one came by
our office to complete an application or ask any
When working with the local high school
didn't provide any results, a new plan was implemented. Instead of internships, trainee positions
were created, with a schedule for receiving salary increases as levels of licenses are achieved.
This process began in 2010 and I am glad to say
we have been able to "grow our own" operators.
The results speak for themselves: since 2010, we
have "grown" two Class III wastewater operators,
three Class IV wastewater operators and a Class
V waterworks operator (to operate a well system).
Additionally, we have one operator scheduled to
take the Class III exam and one scheduled to take
the Class IV within the next month. Success!
It is difficult, at best, to attract prospective
employees to this business. The negatives for
this business could go on and on: regulations,
long hours, working weekends and holidays,
shift work...but let's focus on the positives for a
moment. This business is steady, in demand and
rewarding. Most operators live and work in their
community, and jobs in water and wastewater
treatment provide services and opportunities for
Most employees are working longer, but the
torch will eventually need to be passed on to the
next generation of operators. Where will we find
them? How will we recruit them? We all need to
work together at attracting and training the "baby
boomer" replacements. The good news: VRWA is
here to assist your utility in this endeavor. Please
do not hesitate to call.
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Streamline - Spring 2014
From the President
From the Executive Director
The Importance of an Immediate Response
What’s New in UV?
Proper Disposal of Pharmacy Products
Source Water Protection Notes
Ergs, Joules and Other Stuff
Establishing a Water Distribution System Flushing Program
Curtis Water Wins Big in D.C.
Throwing My Loop: Friends to Keep You Warm
Do You Know What Your VRWA Benefits Are?
Welcome New Members
Board of Directors
Index to Advertisers/Ad.com
Streamline - Spring 2014