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Wastewater Demographics and Effective Workforce Management

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Abstract:

One only needs to look around this convention to understand the reason for this session. The upper ranks of most wastewater utilities consist predominantly of white males. Most of the industry's current upper level managers came from the most populous generation this country has had. That generation was followed by the least populous generation of the 20th Century:

As a result, there are currently a large number of Traditionalists and Baby Boomers that are or will soon be able to retire. However, with the small size of the following generation, our industry could experience a large and sudden wave of retirements with a very tight replacement labor pool. Adding to the problem is the fact that the wastewater industry underwent a substantial unit staffing reduction during the '90s (a 30% reduction from 1990 to 1999 in the AMSA surveys).

In addition to the problems that leanly staffed wastewater utilities will have in replacing retiring managers from a thin labor pool, these utilities, already significantly less diverse than the Nation's workforce, will be hiring from an increasingly diverse labor pool whose expectations and desires in a workplace may be quite different than the one fashioned by current managers.

This paper will present some of the research being performed on this topic in the WERF/AWWARF funded project “Succession Planning For A Vital Workforce In The Information Age,” including an examination of the United States' current and projected labor force, the water and wastewater utility labor force and a brief overview of the survey performed by the research project to provide more detailed information regarding the wastewater workforce. Finally the paper will conclude with some comments on diversity and identify actions that utility managers need to take to insure that their utility is prepared for and can take advantage of this coming personnel turnover.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2175/193864703784755490

Publication date: January 1, 2003

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  • Proceedings of the Water Environment Federation is an archive of papers published in the proceedings of the annual Water Environment Federation® Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC® ) and specialty conferences held since the year 2000. These proceedings are not peer reviewed.

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