Pest control business owner Shane Osborne believes he’s discovered the secret to finding top quality new recruits.

It’s pretty obvious there’s an under representation of women in the pest control industry, especially when it comes to pest technicians. For Shane Osborne, manager at Bob Gunn Termite Solutions in Brisbane, this opens up a world of opportunity.

Bob Gunn Termite Solutions has been in business for over 25 years, covering the greater Brisbane area from Caboolture in the north, to Ipswich in the west, down to the Gold Coast in the south. Over the years, Bob Gunn recruited pest technicians from other companies, but found mixed success as the new recruits didn’t have the skills and enthusiasm expected, or simply didn’t match the business culture. Getting trainees on board also met with mixed results, as often they transferred from other industries and didn’t have any real interest for pest control.

Being on the AEPMA board, Mr Osborne has been involved in discussions about how to improve the industry and make it attractive to new recruits. Finding suitable trainees is an industry-wide problem.

“It’s clear we had to look at new ways to attract individuals that want to be part of the industry and making the opportunity more attractive to females is vital. It makes sense to have female technicians, especially when you consider that the majority of our customer base is still female,” said Mr Osborne.

Mr Osborne decided to lead the way, taking a new approach with Bob Gunn’s recent recruitment effort.

“We used a recruitment agency to advertise for two new trainees. Key selection criteria were set up to find applicants with good customer service skills and a desire to work outdoors. We wanted to find trainees with the right attitude and a good cultural fit. We viewed this as the most important requirements, as we can teach them pest control. We specifically stated that female applicants were encouraged to apply.”

At the end of the process, Bob Gunn ended up with two new female trainees, Jade Terzijski (main picture, left) and Madeline McGrory (centre). Both were enthusiastic and looking for opportunities that allowed them to work outdoors. Ms McGrory had additional experience with a Cert III in Animals Studies and possum trapping license.

“It’s been fantastic to have them come onboard,” Mr Osborne said. “They turn up on time, they have pride in their appearance and are enthusiastic. Their attention to detail and communication skills are fantastic. But I think the real success of their recruitment has been selecting people who want to be part of the industry, regardless of gender.”

The new recruits are undergoing a lengthy training process.

“They completed the classroom-based training to get their general pest and timber pest licenses but are now spending 12-18 months learning on the job with an experienced technician, gradually picking up the skills before being allowed to go out on their own. We don’t just let them start doing termite inspections once they’ve completed their classroom training, it just doesn’t work like that. We support them through the learning process, as it’s really important for us to have good quality technicians,” Mr Osborne explained.

Jade Terzijski taking guidance from Luke Geeman on a termite inspection

Both trainees have found the classroom training intense and in-depth, but interesting. “It’s di cult, but you de nitely learn a lot, and when you get out in the field it all makes sense,” explained Ms Terzijski.

The response from customers has been encouraging. “In the four months since we’ve had Jade and Maddie going out with the senior technicians, we’ve had a lot of feedback from customers saying how great it was to see women on the job, a lot of enthusiastic responses,” said Mr Osborne.

Ms McGrory and Ms Terzijski have also experienced surprise from customers — “Ooo, you’re a girl” and “I’ve never seen a girl before”, are two common responses. “However, once they get over the initial surprise, they are very accepting,” said Ms McGrory.

And how have the new trainees liked their new jobs? “It’s great to be outside. There’s lots of variety and the rest of the team have been very friendly. They don’t treat us any di erently just because we’re women,” said Ms Terzijski.

Both trainees unanimously agree in the one aspect of the role they are less keen on, one that many technicians would agree with — “I like everything about the job, except perhaps the chemical barriers, because of the trenching,” said Ms McGrory.

“We’re really pleased with the new trainees and we’re planning to recruit again early next year. There’s a big untapped labour source out there, which can add value to the business and provide opportunities to individuals. Everyone wins,” concluded Mr Osborne.