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The struggle to fill vacant snow plow driver positions in SE WI this winter

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Posted at 5:59 AM, Jan 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-14 13:47:23-05

KENOSHA — The worker shortage is affecting everyday life, including how you get to work and school.

At the start of winter, Milwaukee Public Works was already down more than 60 plow drivers. Kenosha County Public Works Director Ray Arbet anticipates a 10 percent drop in plow drivers this year. Most are retiring.

“These are very stressful situations for us,” said Arbet. He shared the importance of plow driver’s responsibilities. “Allow the medical people to get to the hospital, the law enforcement get to where they need to go," Arbet said.

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“20 years ago, when we would post these jobs, we would have north of 200 applicants for a single opening," adds Arbet.

Today it is a different story. Arbet has had three plow driver positions open for two months. “It really is one of the most essential of the essential jobs," said Arbet.

Kenosha is not alone. We reached out to leaders in every county in our area. Three out of the seven county leaders who replied said they still have open driver positions. In Fond du Lac, the highway commissioner called it ‘a struggle.’ Racine County’s staff is full, but the public works director worries employees will be compromised with the next COVID surge.

Even after a pay bump to $23 per hour in Milwaukee, there are still 63 open plow driver positions. “We’re actively looking to get people in the door and trained as quickly as possible, as you can imagine,” said Danielle Rodriguez, Milwaukee DPW Director of Operations, on Dec. 29.

The struggle to fill vacant snow plow driver positions in SE WI this winter

Back in Kenosha, Arbet is getting ready for three drivers to retire this summer. He believes this issue is far from over. ”There’s no pipeline, there's no apprenticeship program or anything for these positions. It's on the job training," said Arbet.

He adds it is rare to find anyone with experience these days. “We hope they have a CDL and can train them. Most of these jobs entail at a minimum driving tri-axle dump trucks in pretty precarious situations on the interstate in the middle of 21 a snow storm with traffic," said Arbet.

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Which underlines the importance of filling these roles, and appreciating the treacherous work it takes to keep us all safe.

Click here to apply for the positions open in Kenosha County.

Click here to apply for positions open in Milwaukee.

Click here to apply for positions open in Fond du Lac County.

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