An ageing sector with a recruitment crisis looming

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At PPC Live, BPCA unveiled the strategy for its new Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee. Ian Andrew, BPCA chief executive, looks at how the sector is changing and recruitment challenges ahead

Aside from the pressure on our toolkit, the pest management sector has some significant challenges ahead, and recruiting new staff into the industry is one of the most important. Some estimates claim that up to 40% of the current workforce in the pest management sector will retire in the next 10 years.

There is no doubt very few people wake up one morning thinking that pest control is the career they want to follow. We have a significant job to do to turn this around, and we need the whole sector to think differently about recruitment to do this.

The apprenticeship for recruits never got off the ground, and there are several reasons. Despite many efforts from BPCA and our volunteers, we could not find a provider willing to set up the off-job delivery to support the apprenticeship, and we could not find an end-point assessment provider.

The reasons for this included a low projected volume of apprenticeships, geographical spread and, primarily the amount of funding the apprenticeship had been allocated.

The Level 2 apprenticeship also sat alongside the traditional RSPH qualification route that was more accessible and faster. More generally, the qualifications in the sector are quite disjointed and, at times, confusing. We have two Level 2 awards, one for rodenticide use and one for general pest control.

We have a mix of RSPH, BPCA, and other courses and qualifications that had no clear progression route. The new qualification framework BPCA has been leading will streamline many of the issues we currently face with a clear framework of qualifications at each level and clear progression routes through these. Getting the new framework in place will take time, but we must deliver it.

Recruiting ex-forces
While some companies have succeeded in this area, one stumbling block has been how ex-Forces people can use their resettlement grants. They can only be used for a Level 2 qualification, which cannot include using it for a Level 2 on your way to getting a Level 3 qualification. BPCA continues to look at how we can influence this, and the new framework will see this problem disappear.

Career path
The need for a clear career path for people joining the sector is linked to the disjointed qualification framework. Many new applicants want clarity on progression opportunities; they need to understand that the pest management sector is a career option, not just a job. Again, the new qualification framework will clarify this.

Graduate recruitment
While there has been some success in this area by the larger companies in the sector, graduate recruitment has been shied away from more broadly. Graduates need to understand that there is a clear development pathway.

While the graduate framework developed by the BPCA provides a template to deliver this, we need to help degree and college students to understand what the sector has to offer and commit to providing them with a robust graduate training scheme. It’s often said that this sector is not for graduates. However, a growing number of graduates in the industry would disagree.

Building relationships with universities can bring so many other benefits, and BPCA’s academic relations working group is looking at how we can develop much broader and deeper relationships.

Many members have told us they’d love to hire more young people straight out of school or college. However, getting anyone under 25 insured in a company vehicle can be very costly. One of the early outcomes of the BPCA Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee was to get a specialist insurance partner in place, Stubben Edge.

What the sector has to offer
We know what people in their 20s, 30s and early 40s are looking for in a career. This group of people are generally categorised as Millennials and Generation Z, and have different expectations and priorities than older generations. Research suggests that Millennials and Gen Z want:

Meaningful work
They want to feel like their work is making a difference in the world. They are more likely to choose jobs that align with their values, such as social impact or environmental sustainability.

Work-life balance
They want to have a fulfilling career without sacrificing their personal lives.

Flexible work arrangements, such as compressed workweeks. The freedom to work when and where they want, as long as they are getting it done.

Development opportunities
They want to learn and grow in their careers and are more likely to leave if they feel they are not being challenged or developed.

A sense of community
They want to be able to collaborate with their colleagues and feel like they are part of something.

The pest management sector offers much of what they are looking for, but we need to get that message across. Looking across a range of job adverts in the sector, they are all broadly similar and are all broadly missing the point of what the younger generations expect from their employer.

The new committee will look at how we can best get the messaging about the career opportunities in the sector changed. None of this will happen overnight, but if we keep doing what we have always done as a sector, we will keep coming up against the same challenges.

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About Author

With more than 25 years' experience in business-to-business publishing, Simon is editor of LBM titles Pest and OvertheCounter. Big fan of Manchester United.