You may already know about how much of an impact the millennial generation has on the current labor force in the United States. Millennials already make up the majority of our company here at AdEdge, and millennials in our market will soon be responsible for taking over numerous roles in the water industry, from plant operators to engineers. As such, they are vital to ensuring the future of the water industry at large.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the rate of retirement for water and wastewater professionals will be higher than average than many occupations. Through 2024, treatment plant operators are anticipated to leave at a rate above 25 percent, and environmental and civil engineers at 30 percent. At the same time, the Bureau says, this is in addition to anticipated growth in the industry, leaving room for numerous job openings for millennials in water.
It’s been noted that millennials are more connected and aware than previous generations, having come of age when technology advances and new innovations such as smartphones and social media emerged onto the scene. A diverse, multicultural generation, millennials are also the most educated. They seek opportunities for making change in the world and community-minded workplaces that still value the key attributes an individual brings to the table.
“To appeal to this generation of optimistic, interested individuals, public-sector employers such as water utilities must invest in individual employee development over bulk initiatives and training,” says Jeanne M. Jensen, PE, senior project manager for the town of Gilbert, Ariz., in a January 2019 article for AWWA’s Opflow. Jensen goes on to write that while water utilities cannot control external reasons employees may leave, they should focus on open communication and provide flexibility in order to successfully integrate more millennials into the water sector.
Technological trends in the industry such as cloud-based platforms and AMI (advanced metering infrastructure) also mean device-savvy millennials are suited to taking on the increasing use of mobiles and computing in water treatment and management. Likewise, utilities and businesses will need to be prepared to share their best practices and information gleaned from experience with new millennial hires—a two-way exchange, if you will.
As baby boomers retire and phase out of the workforce, millennials will be expected to take up the mantle alongside Gen X workers in the water industry. The knowledge and optimism they bring will benefit the industry in the long run, and pave the way for future generations to shape the future of water.