OUR WATER: Labor shortage

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Trade professions across the board are facing a labor shortage, placing the care of our water utilities at risk.

“Right now I would say that almost all of our manual labor departments are hurting,” relates Lance Overstreet, the assistant director of the San Angelo water utility department. “Not only our water department; but our parks department, streets and bridge department, storm water department. What we are finding is that all of those departments are facing a 15% to 25% labor shortage in the amount of positions that we need filled.”

More focused on the short term, too few new people are coming in to apprentice and work their way up to higher positions. In an interview Overstreet stated that they often see other industries or other municipalities lure away staff before they make it to the next place in the progression. With the experienced labor force aging out, some preparing for retirement, the city is trying to be competitive in salary and benefits to entice trained staffers to stay on, an example being as workers add certifications and skills their pay will increase, and after a 20 year career, they can retire with benefits.

For what ever reason, careers of utility seemingly have come to be seen as beneath people when they look at possible career paths. Even though most people would agree — smooth roads, clean water, and uninterrupted electricity are necessities.

A local education institute, Howard College, recognizes the trend and is preparing to offer help. “Howard College is actually working towards a trade school.” said Overstreet. “They’re going to be opening up a building very soon and they’re going to be starting some trade training here in San Angelo.”

To see job listings from the city, visit their employment page.



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