Having and maintaining a steady workforce seems to always be a challenge in our industry. They say once you join the industry, you cannot get it out of your blood. Once many of us start, we stay in this profession. One of the main struggles our industry faces is the recruitment of youth wanting to enter our profession.
Time Tells All
The best way to learn this business is from the ground up. Experience is one of the best ways to be subjected to the challenge of our industry. I have had managers come and go through the years. The better ones had a great mixture of hands-on knowledge mixed with higher education. The successful ones have had a good mixture, not one or the other. I believe this is where we are faced with our challenge. If we are successful in attracting a college graduate into our industry, his chances of success are minimal. For a student who could potentially be $100,000 in debt from college loans, it is very rare he would accept learning the business hands-on once hired. On the other hand, I’ve had potential applicants with more than 30 years working experience, but unfortunately, without higher education, they are unable to multi-task the role of managing employees and managing the financial aspects. It may vary geographically, but I can speak for companies located all over Florida, the average window of applicants is from 45 to 65 years of age—most with no waste experience at all.
Here to Stay
For the future of our planet, there will always be a need for waste and recycling haulers. With that being said we must continue to promote our industry as one that is stable to attract employees. With trucks being more complex electronically with automated functions, we are in need of true drivers, not just someone who holds a steering wheel. Drivers are the face and direct connection between your business and the customer. Not only would I require that they reach every safety demand of ours, but I would also require them to treat others as they would want to be treated. Treat your customers with respect and you will be respected.
Thoughts for Change
A few ways I believe we could make our industry more attractive are by visiting job fairs, increasing the reliability/stability of our industry to the general public (radio, Internet and TV), offering increased wages for all positions, signing bonuses and employee contracts. There are many more ways I’m sure we could all brainstorm upon, but these could get at least get us started. I have written past
articles discussing that our industry can no longer operate safely and efficiently and offer below-market pricing (see Waste Advantage Magazine’s December issue: “Evolution of the Garbage Industry”) This is all part of increasing pricing to offer safer, more efficient services to the general public and increasing our youths’ interest to the industry. The first areas in the business to receive no funding if money is not coming in the door are the safety and maintenance department. I see trucks in our service areas that probably pay more in fines for truck violations (safety infractions or failed physical inspections) to the Department Of Transportation than they do tipping fees on a monthly basis. This reduces the overall image of our industry and casts a shadow of attractiveness to the youth in my opinion. We must change this as an industry before it is too late. | WA
John Paglia, III is a 4th generation garbage man. Before he climbed the ranks to become Florida Express Environmental’s (Ocala, FL) General Manager, he had a successful career in college and professional athletics. John has been around the garbage industry since his car seat days. Currently, John is focused on growing his company and offering the highest level of customer service and prolonging the world we live in today. John wakes up every day knowing the impact professional haulers have on their community is far greater than most realize. He can be reached at (352) 629-4349, e-mail John3@floridaexpress.us or visit www.floridaexpress.us.