Joe Frymyer has been with Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority for 19 years. Part 2 of Trash is Cool details his path and explores the various ways employees can grow their career.
Frymyer’s working life began in construction. He lasted one year. What ended that career? “I didn’t like being laid off in the winter. I was looking for steady work all year round.”
He started in 1999 as a compliance officer and earned his weighmaster certificate through the Department of Agriculture with on-the-job training and oversight, much like an apprentice. Two years later he moved to the transfer station and acquired his CDL Class A truck driver license.
As a utility worker, a promotion he accepted in 2003, he says, “You never know what you’re going to do day-to-day. You’re that guy that fits in wherever you’re needed.”
A utility worker is one of the most versatile employees because they’ve had experience and training in many different areas. “You’re probably one of the most valuable guys at the facility,” comments Frymyer. “Some of the additional training I’ve had is on-the-job training as a heavy equipment operator, forklift certification and hazardous waste certification which is needed to work in certain areas of the transfer station.”
After 10 years Frymyer got his first taste of a management role as the “Saturday in charge guy”, the lead person directing employees and handling any issues that arise. While the responsibilities are the same as on a weekday, work hours are shorter. In 2013 he became transfer station foreman in charge of 20 or so employees and started scheduling work, approving vacations and timecards and received some management training. He also acquired transportation management certification, unique to the industry, through the Solid Waste Association of North America which offers education and training in operational management.
Once again he was promoted and is currently a transfer station manager, responsible for day-to-day operations at the site. In addition to ongoing management training, Frymyer has recently acquired his Lean Six Sigma certification.
All of this means that he is one step away from becoming a facility director, a promotion he wants to take on when the opportunity presents itself and the time is right. “We have a great group of guys,” he says. “I hate to see any of them go. I’ll wait my turn.”
Some of the interesting projects he’s been involved with include the revitalization of the transfer station and the conversion from diesel to compressed natural gas trucks. He’s also been involved in the new safety program that installed drive cameras, protecting both the employee and the company. Frymyer and the safety manager run coaching sessions almost daily, using clips to train and help drivers improve their skill sets.
Two things that Frymyer wants you to know: “LCSWAMA is a leader in the industry, and trash is a very cool process. I’m not even going to lie. Everybody has the speculation that trash is gross. You come to find out real quick that it’s a cool process to be a part of.”
While this is Frymyer’s career path there’s a lot of opportunity and a variety of paths you can take says Sandoe. “Growth and advancement doesn’t always have to mean vertically. You can grow, develop and advance within your particular area of expertise.”
Wireback gives an example. “We have many truck drivers who enjoy driving and that’s what they want to do. But within that they also have the opportunity to be mentors and trainers for newer drivers. Often we use a senior driver to take potential candidates for a road test as a final step before hiring.”
She counsels that much is driven by the individual wanting to expand their career. “We also try to recognize and prepare them for growth. If they want opportunities, they’re there. Much like Joe individuals will start as a compliance officer, and then we will teach them additional skills and add on operating equipment allowing them to fill in for other staff.”
To be hired as a compliance officer you need to be 18 years of age and have a high school diploma or GED.
Sandoe expands, “We also offer a skills assessment as we live in an area with a lot of Amish and Mennonite whose education levels go up to eighth grade. There’s a lot of hard working, greatly skilled individuals with potential, and we don’t want to preclude the opportunity to come work for us if they can demonstrate the skill set, ability and work ethic.”
Drivers need either a CDL Class A or B license with a preference for at least three years of experience. Even with a CDL many start in a different position to gain more experience and to ensure their skills and judgement are a priority.
As the county grows, which means more refuse, LCSWAMA needs to grow with it. Most people don’t think about the stability of working within this industry. A recession may mean fewer construction projects, but organic waste – household trash – typically doesn’t decline, and the same staffing levels are needed.
What most employees realize once they get over that misperception of working with waste is that, as Frymyer says, trash is cool.
“We have a comprehensive benefit package with an hourly rate along with our culture, perks and amenities,” says Sandoe. “A big piece is the people. We can offer a lot of stuff, but it’s the people who make our culture great.
“There’s a lot of opportunity for personal growth and professional development. It’s important for people to realize that professional development doesn’t just happen to white collar jobs. While Joe is unique his story isn’t. There’s something different you get working for LCSWAMA.”