Workforce Development and the Role of Leadership

NASSCO is helping guide contractors and public agencies in the proper management of essential workers.

Interested in Education/Training?

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

Education/Training + Get Alerts

A common challenge amongst trenchless technology contractors and public agencies is finding qualified field personnel to properly assess, maintain and rehabilitate underground infrastructure. In 2018, NASSCO identified the need to support our members through partnerships with organizations such as SkillsUSA by developing curriculum to help elevate the knowledge base and prestige in order to support and promote these jobs as solid, lifelong career opportunities.

Two years later the global pandemic hit and everything turned upside-down. With people spending so much time at home, it seemed the life/work balance weighed more heavily on the life side. For the most part, people did not want to return to an office environment, and those who work in the field were resistant to traveling and spending time away from their homes and families.

With this shift, NASSCO’s Workforce Development Committee decided to take a step back and to better understand what field workers were really thinking. An online survey was launched last fall to individuals certified in NASSCO’s Pipeline Assessment Certification Program and Inspector Training Certification Program. Only those who identified themselves as someone employed by a contractor or public agency and currently (or previously) employed as a field technician in the assessment, maintenance, and/or rehabilitation of sewer, water or stormwater systems were surveyed. Nearly 800 people responded.

The survey was designed to help uncover how easy (or hard) it is to currently find a good job in this field; how much training and education plays a role; why a field worker would accept a job and why they would leave one. For the most part, those surveyed believe they are marketable. When asked “Whether you are currently employed in this occupation or not, on a scale of one to 10, with 1 being ‘I am desperate for a job’ and 10 being ‘I have no difficulty finding work’, where would you rate your current potential to land a great job in this industry?” The average rating was eight.

Next, they were asked, “On a scale of one-10, with 1 being ‘I wish they would teach me more’ and 10 being ‘I am an industry pro!’, how would you rank the training and knowledge you receive (or received) at work?” The average rating for this question was seven, so we concluded that for the most part field technicians feel they are marketable and have the skills they need to work in the underground infrastructure field.

What surprised us most, however, was the reason the respondents would leave a job. Contrary to what we assumed, it isn’t money, benefits, travel or training. It is poor leadership. In an unaided question, 84% of the respondents identified the following as reasons they would leave a company:

  • Poor management
  • Bad work environment/culture
  • Difficult relationships with colleagues
  • Lack of leadership
  • Hostile work environment
  • Lack of respect from management

Based on these findings, it is time for us, as an industry, to look inward. NASSCO’s Workforce Development Committee has formed a Leadership Workgroup to identify ways to help guide contractors and public agencies in the proper management of these essential workers. To join NASSCO and to be part of the Workforce Development and many of its other dynamic committees, visit


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.