Thursday, January 8, 2015

Why don’t snow professionals value training like other industries?

'Strategically, SIMA is working to shake the industry up and build a better, safer, and more efficient workforce.'

By Brian Birch, CAE
As SIMA has grown, we've built and launched many training events and products over the years. Recently we launched the Advanced Snow Management program, after literally years of project work and discussion.

The thing that has surprised me is that many snow professionals don’t necessarily value training in snow all that much.  Our surveys over the years clearly indicate that a great number of companies do very little formal training specific to snow each year.

The reasons for disinterest in training are many, and are not to be taken lightly; the cost of training is high, the challenge of keeping good employees is high, and often times the perception of the industry is low in general. And don’t get me wrong, there are many examples across North America of companies training well in snow and ice. But I do think that training and building key skills in the industry is something that can be strengthened over time. Strategically, SIMA is working to shake the industry up and build a better, safer, and more efficient workforce.

In late 2014, SIMA staff and a group of key volunteers known as the Stakeholder Advisory Group went through a strenuous process to apply for ANSI accreditation for all four Advanced Snow Management courses. After one full year of preparation, over 30 pages of documentation, $10,000+ in application fees and preparation expenses, 60+ documents, and countless hours, SIMA’s application was submitted in early December. Our application is under review until mid-January, and then the next step will be to have two ANSI auditors complete an in-person program audit.

So the question is; why did we invest so much time and effort into this process? The answer is quite simple; we are seeking to build the industry’s most powerful training verification program. We aim to set a new bar for professionals in the industry, one which empowers companies across North America to train key personnel to become safer, more efficient, and more skilled. We seek ANSI accreditation for our programs so that we can show those insurance and commercial facilities management folks that snow professionals mean business.

Snow professionals don’t value training as much as they should because they haven’t been given a good reason to do so – and you can help us change that. What action can you take to help? Here are a few thoughts:
  • Take a look at the Advanced Snow Management program and consider investing in a stronger, more powerful training program for your key managers.
  • Download the SIMA Best Practices Checklist and start checking items off the list.
  • Email and tell her what a great job she has done getting SIMA to this point in the ANSI application process, and tell her to keep pushing hard.
  • Email Jason Case, CSP, SIMA Board President, at and share your thoughts for training in the industry and how SIMA can help make training a game-changer for you.
SIMA Action Alerts are designed to challenge the membership at large to take action and be informed. Please share any thoughts on Action Alerts with, or in the comment section below.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Help define the future of the snow industry

'The future can be full of promise provided we come together as an industry to fight for the greater good and protection of snow professionals.'

By Jason Case, CSP
The last few years have been very exciting and challenging in the snow industry. We have all seen record-breaking snowfall, salt shortages and insurance issues, but have persevered despite a struggling economy. Today is a new day, as our industry has evolved and is now being taken seriously by property owners, legislators and the general public. So, what is the future of snow & ice? How will the laws enforce and govern change? And who will be there to help guide us through the unknown?

Risk Management
When I think of the challenges contractors will face in the immediate future, risk management is the first thing that comes to mind. The insurance industry is frightened by the nature of the snow business, and it seems like contractors take on all the risk, even when they do everything possible to get the job done. How can we defend ourselves in a litigious world? SIMA understands these issues, and with your help we are collectively developing and publishing industry standards, best practices, salt application rates, and education through the Advanced Snow Management (ASM) and Certified Snow Professional (CSP) programs. 

Contract reform also needs to be considered, as well as legislative change that helps defend contractors from frivolous lawsuits. The future can be full of promise provided we come together as an industry to fight for the greater good and protection of snow professionals. 

Environmental concerns
Environmental concern is continuously on the rise. A salt shortage correlates to the amount of product distributed into the environment. Are we over applying? Many contractors feel the more product they apply the faster snow & ice melt. Multiple applications help achieve bare pavement, meeting consumer needs and reducing the risk of slip and falls. Recent studies funded by SIMA will demonstrate that contractors can achieve acceptable results with less product. 

We all have a responsibility to help protect our watershed areas. SIMA is the go-to resource to help contractors understand that spreading fewer chlorides means being environmentally responsible. By utilizing new technologies, coated rock salt, liquids, advanced equipment and training, we can help preserve our environment and still provide safe and accessible vehicle and pedestrian ways.

Look to the future
Leadership is the future of our industry. It's because of pioneers like Alan Steiman, CSP, and Brian Akehurst, CSP, that I can stand proud to be a snow & ice contractor. These mentors helped guide me and encouraged me to get involved, think outside the box, and become a snow & ice professional. Through my past 10 years of involvement with SIMA I have met some remarkable people. Everyone has something to offer this industry and the SIMA organization. When I joined, I never thought I would be writing this article as SIMA's chairman of the Board of Directors. Now I challenge you. It's time to come together as an industry and get involved beyond paying your membership dues. Help make a difference, become a leader, and mentor the younger generations to build a sustainable snow & ice industry.

Thank you to all of the members, volunteers and SIMA staff who contribute to helping make a difference for all snow contractors.

Jason Case, CSP is president of Case Snow Management, Inc., located in North Attleboro, MA, and board chair of SIMA.