The Path to Professionalism

Thursday July 12, 2012


Mr Pest Control


In your opinion, what is the difference between a pest control technician and a "spray jockey" or a "Dale Gribble" type besides the official stuff like training and accreditation.

Aaron, TN

Mr Pest Control


Well, this is one of those questions I just love to ramble on about, but also one I am really passionate about, and I'll take a couple of different paths here. Let me start with a comparison and offer that there are a lot of professional school teachers or professors out there who, without a doubt, really know their subject matter and who may have several degrees and other accreditation, but who do not have the ability to "teach" that information to others. Similarly, we have plenty of people working in professional pest management who may attend a lot of training events and have state-issued licenses and other accreditation, but who maybe did not pay close attention to what was taught at those training events or perhaps just chooses to stick to the fast and easy way of doing things. It may have as much to do with desire and attitude as it does with the formal training and licensing. On the other hand, there are a great many highly professional people in our industry who do not have to multiple licenses or much formal training, but they have good common sense, high moral standards, and a strong sense of what needs to be done to resolve a pest problem properly. 

I feel fortunate to have known quite well Mr. Norm Ehmann, a former star in our company and one who felt his own passion for moving the pest control industry forward into professionalism. His enthusiasm for educating technicians and owners rubbed off on me, and watching the changes over 35 years proves that this desire has made positive changes. I don't watch the TV show "King of the Hill", so I really don't know how Dale Gribble is portrayed there, but I assume from the context of your question that he is not exactly the role model our industry wants to see on mass media. Unfortunately, portrayals like this one or the awful "B....... The Exterminator" reality (is that really "reality") show might convince the American Public that this is how our industry really is, and they fail to separate true reality from entertainment. 

I think the true professional in pest management continues to learn everything he or she can about this industry, stays on top of changes and new issues that come along, willingly accepts that changes are going to be made and must be followed, and looks for the best long term solution to pest problems with the least use of toxic materials. He does not have a one-shoe-fits-all approach to all pest problems, but recognizes that different products are best for different issues. He has a strong focus on proper identification to ensure that a "pest" is actually present, and avoids the use of pesticides when it is not necessary. He works with the customer to teach them about contributing conditions on their property and how to resolved those conditions so that a pest problem is reduced or prevented non-chemically. 

The spray jockey uses pesticide whether or not it is needed because he is convinced that the customer is not going to pay if "something" is not sprayed, and the more the merrier. The spray jockey hops out of his truck on that monthly or quarterly account and, without bothering to inspect the property, just starts spraying the usual chemical that he always uses on that account. The spray jockey does not involve the customer in the selection of products to be used nor spends any time helping the customer to understand what the problems are and why they exist there. After all, the more the customer know the less mystery there is about pest control. The spray jockey doesn't care what kind of bug it is or whether or not it is a beneficial or a pest, but works on the policy that the only good bug is a dead bug, and wants to see zero living creatures on the customer's property. 

Fortunately we have tremendous leadership in the pest management industry, not only with the National Pest Management Association but every state association as well as the many university and private consultants who work so hard to teach us what they know. They have for decades preached the messages I summarize above, that IPM is absolutely necessary if we expect to provide  the best long term control with the goal of reduced use of pesticides. They preach that proper ID is absolutely necessary if we are to choose the proper methods and products to manage that pest. They work with the regulatory agencies and those groups who are not fond of our industry to come to compromise and workable regulations. 

But, ultimately it boils down to the technician himself, and whether he is just in this for a buck or wishes to be professional, effective, and concerned with the environment. Something about leading a horse to water.........

Mr. Pest Control

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Please note, Mr. Pest Control is answering questions supplied by PMP customers across North America. His answers are generated from industry and manufacturer-provided information. The answer may not be specific to the laws and regulations for your State, Province, Territory or Country. In addition, products mentioned may not be registered and or available in all areas. Always check with your local Univar office for specific information to your area. Always read and follow label directions.