A Noble Cause

Departments - Editor’s Note

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September 3, 2019

I heard a fascinating story about the valent effort to retain a key employee looking to not only leave his company, but bail out of the industry altogether.

It should be noted the employee in this story was a Millennial (cue groans and eye rolls) who was showing potential. One day, out of the blue, the promising upstart tendered his resignation. When asked why, the youth responded the work wasn’t very noble.

That’s right. Professional snow and ice management was not “noble” and they sought a new profession to fill that void in life. What struck me was the choice of the word “noble.” When I think of “noble” causes or professions, what comes to mind is Habitat for Humanity, missionary work, or digging wells in Africa.

Once the initial shock subsided, my contractor friend outlined everything noble about snow and ice management. For example:

  • The industry provides a critical emergency service in response to winter weather that – depending on the magnitude of the event – is often catastrophic in nature.
  • Government/Municipal work aside, without commercial snow and ice management the gears of commerce would grind to a halt for any event in excess of three to four inches. Sure, snow days are fun, but they’re destructive to local economies.
  • Snow and ice management is a thankless job (and I can’t think of anything more noble than that). Most of the work is accomplished during the overnight hours, with no one witnessing the monotonous back-and-forth of a plow truck or salter, or the back-breaking work of sidewalk crews.
  • • The work often goes unappreciated. People get out of their cars or exit buildings to cleared, wet pavement, and they don’t have to worry if that first step they take will be their last.

Frankly, I don’t know if the lessons on snow management’s nobility worked, or if the Millennial had a career epiphany and has now recommitted himself to snow and ice. What I do know is there’s a fundamental issue at play here: we’re doing a poor job at communicating the role this industry play in society.

Granted, over the last decade our community has taken impressive strides to escape the “plow jockey” mold. And in recent years, though the various industry certifications offered by both the ASCA and SIMA, as well as the introduction of ISO 9001/SN 9001, snow and ice management has earned greater professionalism and respect.

Likewise, the ASCA’s legislative efforts have brought greater understanding and recognition at the state and federal levels about the jobs you do for their constituents between November and April.

We need to do a better job at communicating the critical role played in winter weather situations. And this may be as simple as explaining to potential or new hires how their jobs impact the community at large and clearly defining for them what it is that makes snow and ice management a noble profession.