It’s hard to imagine someone being voluntarily cooped up studying for eight hours every day in a tiny 10×10 kitchenette, with no windows, tons of interruptions and very little guidance — and yet look forward to showing up for it for three straight months.
Well, that was me 36 years ago, in my initial training for my new pest control career. Not only did I look forward to it, I absolutely loved it.
While my training was not what you’d call orthodox, it was effective. I was fascinated by all the new things I was learning in that tiny room. Now, I don’t recommend this method personally, but to be fair, my branch manager was in a tight spot; he knew he wanted to hire me, he just didn’t have an opening as of yet.
So, I watched every video, read every book and took every test the company offered before I ever touched a sprayer. Then, when I was finally handed the keys to my first little pickup truck, I thought I was ready to solve all the world’s pest problems. Boy, was I wrong.
REALITY CREEPS IN
First, I was faced with the reality of a massive German cockroach infestation, then rats running across my feet, and then being a half-hour late to my next stop — all on my first morning. All the books I had read didn’t really seem to help me too much at that point. Apparently, the pests I was facing hadn’t read the same books I did.
I needed practical application training, and fast. And to my office’s credit, it came and was fairly constant until I could truly stand on my own.
I wouldn’t trade my experiences for anything, because I truly feel they helped shape me into the service professional I am today. But training is a balancing act among classroom, practical application and real life.
Strive to teach, teach, teach, and embrace all of today’s new technologies and research. Endeavor to get “hands-on” and jump in there, ready to work side-by-side. And always, always allow for teachable moments in real-life scenarios — and the mistakes and hard knocks lessons that come with them. They’re worth their weight in gold.
They say learning is an everyday adventure, and I believe this to be true. Just make sure to get out of the kitchenette once in a while.
Tips from the Pest Cemetery crew
“Have a clear, written training plan for all new hires. Cover all the basics, from who you are as a company to what you expect from them as team members. Use videos or other visuals to paint the picture for those things that may require a clear vision of what you expect. We have a checklist of everything we want that person to see and do. Be consistent and always improve your training plan. Things change, and we need to change with them. Listen to feedback from your new hires, too, as they may have some great ideas for your plan.”
— Kevin Lemasters, ACE, President, EnviroPest, Windsor, Colo.
“You don’t learn ‘real’ pest control in just a few months. It’s a shame to see really good technicians leave because their companies didn’t train them properly at the beginning. Or else their training was so minimal that when they finally hit the real deal, they’re clueless as to what they’re doing, yet they’re expected to do it 18 times a day.”
— Rudy Chavez Morfin, Plant and Lawn Healthcare & Pest Control Specialist, Valley Green Inc., Keizer, Ore.
SCHAPPERT is owner of The Bug Doctor, Ocala, Fla., and administrator for Facebook industry discussion group Pest Cemetery. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.