Crisis Overstated? Knowledge Gaps and the Aging Water Workforce
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ABSTRACT Beginning in 1946 fertility in Canada and other Western countries increased to rates unequaled throughout the rest of the 20th century. Sixty five years since the beginning of the baby boom, as this generation was labelled, workers are retiring or nearing retirement on scale not previously witnessed. This workforce exodus has signalled concern among scholarly, professionals and government sources alike. The public sector has been identified as particularly at risk with both and older average worker age and a low average retirement age. Within the public sector, jobs relating to the Canadian water workforce have similarly been identified for retirement concerns, specifically among senior positions. Retirements have highlighted aspects of concern for the future: knowledge leaving the workplace, and recruiting talent for the future. Among primary concerns is for knowledge that has no place in traditional documentation methods, tacit knowledge. Although transferring this knowledge presents difficulties, strategies include retaining knowledgeable employees and creating programs that facilitate knowledge exchange. Mentorship programs are one such strategy identified specifically for tacit knowledge transfer. This thesis considers how retirements would affect the water workforce including positions centred on conservation and policy efforts, as well as the water utilities industry. Although a few studies have focused on water utilities, this area of the public workforce had largely been ignored. Conducting fourteen interviews within three case study municipalities, primary data was gathered to determine how the water workforce would be affected by retirements, if retirements created concerns with respect to inter-organizational networks, and what strategies would be most suited to the needs of participating organizations.