Filling the Void

A topic that operators and I frequently discuss is filling job openings in their water systems. I know many facilities are going through hard times and struggling to find a “good” operator. Lack of properly certified operators not only affects water facilities, but also affects wastewater and solid waste facilities, as well. This topic can be looked at from many angles, and in this post, we will mention a couple of reasons why this problem has occurred (i.e.  age, pay and location).

Kentucky is not the only state feeling the consequences of a lack of operators. It is a national problem that will have to be addressed so that all water, wastewater and solid waste facilities can properly treat and distribute water and effectively manage solid waste.  Luckily, here in Kentucky, we have several “double dippers” who retire and then come back to work. However, this situation is as temporary as a bandage, and we need to find a reliable and sustained fix for the problem.

I ask every operator in my classes, “How would you recruit someone to work in this industry?” The funny thing is I don’t get a lot of answers. But one response I receive is that only a few facilities can say they have wages in place that would entice new individuals into the profession. The next answer is normally job security, and this is true for a lot of the baby boomers (BB). The average time spent at one job for the BB is around 17.6 years. My generation is a little different; we average around 3.6 years per job before moving on to the next one. Now, I am glad to say I am an exception to that average. I am big on job security. I just don’t know how many high school and college graduates think about their futures in terms of job security. After job security comes retirement, and again we go back to the idea of how long we stay at a job. Most Generation X and Millennials entering this field may not be thinking that far ahead.

You might wonder why I am asking these questions of our course participants. The main reason is because we need more operators to help fill the void. We have to be able to reach out to the youth of today, get their attention and let them know the importance of this profession. Staff members in our program are doing their part to recruit new operator professionals by participating in high school and college career fairs, as well as outreach events in different communities. Some days, I don’t feel successful in the recruitment arena. However, one day when operators get paid what they deserve, I hope facilities will be to the point where they will have to turn people away.

If you can think of ways to help fill the void, send your recruitment ideas to me at

CG “Tar Heel”

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