Communities turn to water and wastewater operations contracts to address retiring work force
For an estimated 38 percent of the municipal work force, retirement age is here or will be here in the next five years. With these retirements, communities lose good employees and the years of institutional knowledge these employees take with them as they leave.
Many of these workers learned how to run their municipalities operations by getting their hands dirty with on-the-job training. They know where every valve is, which ones are difficult and why each is located where. Most importantly, they are an incredible resource of past experience when troubleshooting new problems. This lifetime of work-related experience can’t be replaced easily or quickly.
There are few state-licensed operators willing to start over and leave their current positions that include 10-15 years seniority and built-up benefits. Instead, it is a younger, less experienced and unlicensed work force that is looking for careers. Unfortunately, few Millennials grew up saying they wanted to work at a wastewater or water treatment plant. Additionally, water and wastewater jobs are typically underappreciated and have lower salaries than other technical careers. As much as I love my job, I have to admit it’s not flashy. Due to each of these challenges, the pool of possible wastewater employees is dwindling.
So where do community leaders find replacement workers who have the necessary licensure? Remember, all states require that water and wastewater systems be operated only by licensed operators.
To solve this problem, many municipalities are turning to full contract operations. By outsourcing their water and wastewater operations, community leaders are accessing the resources of large firms to replace the knowledge that walked out the door with a retirement.
Firms like Mead & Hunt can provide a licensed treatment facility manager to oversee inexperienced operators and/or manage the facility. In addition, we can assist with operator training and help newly hired operators become adept at operations while obtaining their state license. Outsourcing contract operations allows community leaders to shift the burden of their municipalities onto the shoulders of the contractor and alleviate the soaring cost of benefits and labor contracts.
Using a contractor can eliminate the stress of losing a treatment facility operator with experience, knowledge and state licensure due to retirement, and it can possibly offer an opportunity to save money with full contract operations.
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