Feb 19, 2008

Workforce Shortage

It’s pretty hard to predict the outcome of anything these days. From the upcoming presidential election, to the state of the economy and even weather conditions, the outlooks are obscure.

That’s not the case, however, with the workforce shortage in our industry.

According to the recent Water & Wastes Digest State of the Industry Report, the average water/wastewater professional has been working in the industry for 22 years. Almost one-third (30%) of 10,000 randomly surveyed subscribers to Water & Wastes Digest have been in the industry for 30 years or more. Additionally, 41.5% of respondents said they are between the ages of 50 and 59.

It doesn’t take much to see that Baby Boomers currently hold many critical positions and as they reach retirement, there won’t be young professionals galore waiting to enter the water and wastewater field. This problem is even more severe in rural areas and remote locations where it is especially challenging to find, train and keep skilled employees.

What’s more alarming is that many utilities could find themselves in such desperate need to fill vacancies that they may end up hiring people lacking the technical know-how and experience necessary for the job.

Unfortunately, there is no easy solution to this pressing problem. Although there are a number of university programs across the country that attract students to the environmental and technology field, the graduating talent pool is too small to fill the growing need for qualified employees.

This only means that the competition for skilled employees between companies will get tougher. One thing is certain: As the challenging workforce shortage continues, utilities will have to offer various employment incentives to attract and keep the best and the brightest.

While Water & Wastes Digest prides itself on bringing you the most current industry issues, it is determined to offer solutions as well. Just as any case study that offers an insightful solution to a specific problem, in this issue, Water & Wastes Digest interviewed three industry professionals and asked them to share their views on the workforce shortage and offer possible solutions. You can find their answers in the Industry Insight Q&A (page 62).

I would also like to encourage you to contact us and share any staffing challenges that you have experienced.


Keeping You In The Know

On a different note, I want to bring to your attention a new handy tool—WaterInfoLink.com.

WaterInfoLink.com is a new search engine designed specifically for today’s busy professionals who use the Web to search for industry information but don’t have the time to sift through all the “junk.” Visit WaterInfoLink.com and discover links to only the most relevant industry content.

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