Groundwater Week 2023 Workshop Provides Tips on Workforce Development

Decades of experience working in the groundwater industry was shared with attendees on the final day of Groundwater Week 2023, December 5-7 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

In the workshop, “Passing on Knowledge to the Next Generation Roundtable,” NGWA Past President David Henrich, CWD/PI, CVCLD, moderated a panel on workforce development that was free flowing with input also provided by attendees. Workforce development is the industry’s top concern. The panel featured:

  • Industry veterans Art Becker, MGWC, CPG, NGWAF, also a NGWA past president, and NGWA Board Director Fred Rothauge, CWD
  • A young perspective in 39-year-old Chance Coats, a third-generation pump installer and first-generation driller who serves as president of the New Mexico Ground Water Association.

As president/hydrogeologist of Coats Pump & Supply Inc. in Dexter, New Mexico, Coats has seen his company triple in size with 20 on staff. He said being dynamic and creative is needed in solving workforce issues while stressing patience is also key. His company has had greater success with in-person applicants than online applicants.

Coats, who wants to earn NGWA contractor certifications with an ultimate goal of becoming a Master Groundwater Contractor (MGWC), shared what has worked for his company thus far:

  • New hires are on a 60-day probationary period to see if they like the work and can handle it. He likes applicants who played team sports because they know how to work as a unit. He also knows applicants who have children will be motivated to work.

    Chance Coats

    “You have to earn the spot,” Coats said. “They’re not owed the job. They gotta earn it.”

  • Once the 60-day probationary period concludes, Coats purchases uniforms for his employees and business cards with their title. This matters significantly to some staff members. The younger generation wants to know that what they do matters, and all this helps the cause.
  • To combat the misconception of the industry and image of his company, Coats cleaned up and organized the yard and rebuilt one shop and built a new one. New service vehicles replaced old ones. He wants his staff to have pride in the work they do.
  • Sensing his company can meet the drilling needs in his area, Coats recently purchased a new drilling rig and has leaned on nearby industry veterans to help him get up to speed on running it.

Becker, president of MB Drilling LLC in West Creek, New Jersey, and Rothauge, technical advisor for Hydro Resources Inc. in Fort Lupton, Colorado, shared valuable insight including:

  • In the past, some drilling companies pushed for speed and footage. Today, more attention is being paid to health and safety. The earnings of 10 wells drilled in a month can be wiped out with one injury.
  • View staff members not as equipment. They have lives too. Similarly, they’re not “employees” who work for you, they’re “coworkers” who work with you.
  • Ask applicants if they’re looking for a job or career. If it’s not a career, the applicant might not be the right person to hire.
  • Paid time off (PTO) is the number-one benefit to offer employees.
  • To further the pride in their work and retain them, send staff to state association events to further their education.
  • NGWA University online training powered by Oklahoma State University to meet the industry’s pressing workforce development challenges.

All recordings of Groundwater Week 2023 workshops will be on the NGWA Learning Center by February 1, 2024. Attendees will receive a coupon code between February 1-15, 2024, to access the workshop recordings for free to gain lifetime access to them. Workshop recordings will also be available for purchase for non-attendees.

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