Staffing Shortfalls: Finding Workers To Fill Critical Positions In Snow & Ice Removal

I hear this all the time from business owners, “We can’t find enough good help. And when we do find them, we can’t keep them.” It’s not uncommon to see ads like this in the classifieds especially during a particularly long winter.

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Maintaining A Reliable Workforce

One of the biggest concerns in the snow and ice removal business is maintaining a stable, reliable workforce. Performing the work of snow and ice management is not easy. The hours are often at odd times (middle of the night, holidays and weekends), unpredictable, and performed in some of the worst winter weather conditions imaginable.

The snow and ice removal industry needs reliable help, but it’s at the mercy of weather that is almost never predictable. It’s somewhat of a conundrum. One month can bring extreme weather while the next may be sunny without a storm cloud in sight. If it’s your responsibility to find workers to run the office, man the snowplows, spreaders, and sidewalk equipment, then you know how challenging mother nature can make the task. Do you need five employees this month or fifteen?

SIMA advocacy
Rising Costs Make Profits Are Harder To Come By

Property managers are asking providers to do more with less, while the costs of doing business continue to increase. Fortunately, fuel prices are coming down, but it’s about the only thing that is. The costs of running a snow and ice operation continue to rise, leaving far less room for profit. Maintaining a staff in such an unpredictable and labor intensive business is maddening to say the least.

Minimum wage isn’t an issue. It requires much higher than minimum wage to hire and keep workers in this business. In landscaping, many companies use the H-2B seasonal worker program, but this hasn’t been widely adopted in winter service companies and the program has caps that are quickly filled.

Immigration Reform

One solution to the dilemma may be the immigrant population. For years, the debate over immigration reform has been brewing all over America and on Capitol Hill. The list of reform proponents is growing along with support from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and several think tanks. A growing body of research concludes that more immigrants actually benefit American workers. Higher wages, more job opportunities, increased productivity, and economic growth are all benefits of an increased immigrant population.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce supports several aspects of changes to U.S. Immigration policy including provisions on lesser skilled worker visas. The Chamber recognizes the difficulty many industries have in creating a stable, reliable workforce. Snow and ice removal isn’t the only industry struggling with employment issues. Agriculture, construction, landscaping, and food & hotel services also find the workforce limited at times.

The current reality is that we’re seeing a shortfall in resident workers willing to take on these jobs. Thus, companies are recruiting non-resident workers to fill the gaps. In an effort for snow and ice contractors to have a voice at the highest levels of government, SIMA (Snow & Ice Management Association) has developed a legislative position statement through our Advocacy Task Force.

More ideas and options are needed. The workforce issue for snow and ice companies is not going away anytime soon. If you have ideas to share or stories to tell that may lead to answers, your input is welcome.

Martin Tirado
SIMA (Snow & Ice Management Association

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