Streamline - Spring 2014 - (Page 7)

FromThePresident 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! Most employees are working longer, but the torch will eventually need to be passed on to the next generation. We need to work at attracting and training the "baby boomer" replacements. 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 questions. 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 those communities. 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. 7

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
Wastewater Math
Curtis Water Wins Big in D.C.
Throwing My Loop: Friends to Keep You Warm
eLearning Benefits
Membership Application
Do You Know What Your VRWA Benefits Are?
VRWA Mailbag
Welcome New Members
Training Calendar
Board of Directors
VRWA Committees
Index to Advertisers/

Streamline - Spring 2014