PEORIA, Ariz. (December 05, 2011) – When Peoria, Arizona, realized a few
years ago that it wouldn't be able to attract trained water- and
wastewater-department employees from other municipalities, it decided to take a
grow-your-own approach. It would cultivate its own talent to take over
operations when the current crop of employees retires.
The "grow-our-own" program was recognized by Workforce Management Magazine as a
2011 winner of the Optimas Award for Managing Change. The Optimas Awards are
presented to companies across the globe in recognition of workforce management
initiatives that directly improve business results. Awards are presented in the
categories of General Excellence, Corporate Citizenship, Competitive Advantage,
Financial Impact, Global Outlook, Innovation, Managing Change, Partnership,
Service and Vision. This year's winners brought innovation, discipline and
vision to their organizations, each positioned for long-term sustainability and
vitality for post-recession success.
In the city, which has a population topping 150,000, 80 percent of the workers
in the water and wastewater divisions are older than 50, which will create a
major talent crunch as they retire over the next decade, says Bobbie Kimelton,
the city's human resources manager.
"Some people view these as labor-intensive jobs, but "they require a different
skill set than they used to," Kimelton says, including high-level math and
science skills. But, she says, most 17- and 18-year-olds don't think, "I always
wanted to work in a wastewater plant."br>
Because new recruits are few and far between, the city decided to launch its own
apprenticeship program in 2008 under the auspices of the Public Works-Utilities
Department. City leaders figured that "if we don't start now, the time will come
when people will retire with no replacement in place," Kimelton says.
The program provides college classes and on-the-job training, totaling more than
6,000 hours of education for each worker, to create certified water-utility
workers. Apprenticeship programs are common in the private sector or through
specific unions, but they're much rarer in municipal governments, especially in
the West, Kimelton says.
Courses are taught by instructors from GateWay Community College in Phoenix, as
well as experts from state and local agencies, supervisors and city workers.
Although Peoria employees don't have to guarantee they'll stay with the city
once they graduate, the program "creates a sense of loyalty," Kimelton says.
For creating a registered apprenticeship program to develop talent in-house, the
city of Peoria, Arizona, is the 2011 winner of the Optimas Award for Managing
The Optimas Award winners will be featured in the December issue of Workforce
Management magazine and online at Workforce.com.