Bryan Clor Faced a Wave of Retirements. He Didn't Waste Time Before Taking Action

A Michigan clean-water utility modifies its training program, aiming to attract a diverse workforce to replace retiring workers.

Bryan Clor Faced a Wave of Retirements. He Didn't Waste Time Before Taking Action

Sam Turner, left, mechanic technician, mentors trainee Malcom Brown on pump repair.

Interested in Education/Training?

Get Education/Training articles, news and videos right in your inbox! Sign up now.

Education/Training + Get Alerts

Bryan Clor heard alarm bells on realizing that half of his 41-person staff would retire within the next five years.

“I knew something had to be done immediately, and there was no time to waste,” says Clor, division head for the Warren (Michigan) Water Recovery Facility.

Clor looked over the utility’s training manual and basically changed it up to make it more inclusive for all the areas where clean-water operators needed to be proficient. He knew that training the next generation of operators meant thinking of creative ways to get the word out about the industry and the benefits of wastewater careers.

College partnership

The Warren plant (50 mgd design, 22 mgd average) serves a city of 135,000, about 20 miles north of Detroit. The city had been giving plant tours for about 10 years with students from Macomb College, but Clor began using the tours to promote careers in the industry.

“We need to change people’s perception of the wastewater industry,” Clor says. “I started telling them what a career in wastewater really means and all the benefits it provides, such as a recession-proof job, variety in work, and the significance to the community of cleaning our water.”

He was doing more than planting seeds with the students; he was outright asking them to join his team and take part in his training program. Several took him up on his offer, made great trainees and were eventually hired.

Clor’s only requirement is that students who apply have at least one year of post-secondary education. “This is a job where you are constantly learning new things, and we want people who like to learn,” he says. “I’ve been here 13 years and I’m learning new things all the time.”

Diverse training

Trainees who are accepted are paid as if they were employees. They learn four parts of the operator’s role: lab, operations, maintenance and industrial pretreatment. They spend three months in each area training with an experienced team member.

“One area builds on the other,” Clor says. “It also makes them more well-rounded. If I need to move them around for some reason, they are already familiar with the area.” Training typically takes one year; trainees who need more work in a given area repeat it, but must complete the total program within two years.

They are also encouraged to acquire a Class D license and follow up with C, B and A licenses. They receive bonus payments for each license they complete.

Casting a wider net

Clor’s advice to other plant leaders: “Find local resources in your backyard and tap into them.” He believes a diverse workforce brings multiple ideas to the table and that men and women of different ages and backgrounds make for a more successful team.

Besides recruiting at the college, Clor has started visiting local high school seniors’ classes to tell them about careers in the field while they are still contemplating their next move after graduation. To date, 24 students have applied for training; four trainees have been hired, and two are waiting for job openings to come up. 

“I am in a position right now where I have more applicants than I have openings, which is a good problem to have,” Clor says. Sarah Schwartz, a trainee recently hired as an operator, was an environmental science major at Macomb and wasn’t sure what to do with her degree.

After taking the plant tour, she applied and has been an ideal candidate. She just received a promotion to a water specialist role and wants to make wastewater her career, says Clor. “While a science degree is ideal,” he says. “We just hired an art major, Dave Kmiecik, as a trainee, and he is working out great.”

Rewarding program

Clor notes that living in a Great Lakes state puts new operators on the front line of defense for the waterways, lakes and streams. He impresses that on the students he talks with. The training program has been so successful with operators that Clor wants to use the same template to fill electrician and engineer openings.

To date, the program has won the Michigan Pump Award for enhanced water resource recovery practices, from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes & Energy and the Michigan Water Environment Association. Clor received a Public Utility Management Person of the Year award from the MWEA. In addition, the program received a Special Attribute Recognition from the Governor of Michigan. In June, it will receive the MWEA Donald M. Pearce Award for Outreach.   


Comments on this site are submitted by users and are not endorsed by nor do they reflect the views or opinions of COLE Publishing, Inc. Comments are moderated before being posted.