Robin Drew, pest management teacher at OTEN (TAFE NSW) emphasises the importance of keeping your pest management skills and knowledge up to date. 

Some would assume that being a pest management trainer is a simple task. The pests themselves don’t change that much. Once trainers have a lesson plan on the classification, biology and ecology of a cockroach, don’t they just churn this out again and again? Sure, we occasionally see the emergence of new pests such as bed bugs or fire ants, but in the broad scheme of things for a trainer isn’t this just repetition?

To some degree this is true. The pests we deal with don’t change that much and most trainers would have their theoretical training on the pests locked in. The thing that does change in the pest management industry is the treatment methodology. I remember as a new lad to the industry 20 years ago that I was instructed by my large multinational company to carry out treatment for ants, cockroaches and spiders by backing the truck up the driveway and spraying a minimum of 40–50 litres of organophosphate on the outside of a house, amongst a few other treatment ‘tricks’ they used. Nowadays, this sort of methodology would be frowned on by most of your colleagues in the industry (hopefully!) and would have many clients running in fear of being poisoned.

The advent of new equipment and new pesticides combined with the expectations of the client has meant the industry has changed greatly over a relatively short period of time. Much of this change is driven by the consumers wanting no pests and no pesticides – in many cases an unrealistic expectation. The industry has had to react, and is now geared at supplying an ‘integrated’ approach. A technician is now required to evaluate each job and come up with a targeted approach. Technicians are also expected to have a working knowledge of pest biology and ecology, the characteristics of the various chemical and non-chemical treatments they have used, and are expected to be able to communicate all of this to their clients. It is the role of the trainer to arm technicians with all of these tools and to provide an avenue to keep in touch with new technologies as they emerge.

The other ongoing changes that are faced by the pest management trainer are keeping training and assessment material up to date with the ever changing requirements of the Australian Government Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) and the Construction and Property Services Industry Skills Council (CPSISC) who administer the requirements within training packages that pest management trainers must adhere to. There is currently a review of the pest management training package taking place that will mean changes happen to the way pest management students are trained and assessed. It does take time to get major educational changes like this brought in – but the second draft of these changes has been undertaken and it appears that change may be imminent. If you would like to take a look into the future of pest management training you can access the current draft of changes at the CPSISC website.

Robin Drew, Pest Management Teacher, OTEN

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