CLEVELAND – PCT is proud to announce the 2017 Technicians of the Year: Gus Walker, Gregory Pest Solutions (residential category); Joey Hoke, American Pest Management (commercial category); and James Miners, Western Pest Services (termite category).
The annual awards, sponsored by BASF Pest Control Solutions, recognize a trio of standout service professionals in the residential, commercial and termite categories.
“Gus, Joey and James go above and beyond to provide standout service to their customers. They are leaders in their companies and in their communities,” said PCT Managing Editor and Internet Editor Brad Harbison. “They truly embody what these awards are about and it’s our privilege to recognize them.”
Profiles of Hoke, Walker and Miners appear in the December 2017 issue of PCT, and all three winners will be recognized during a special ceremony at NPMA Legislative Day in March.
A brief description of each winner follows:
A love to learn and share his pest control knowledge with colleagues, has made Joey Hoke, PCT’s Commercial Technician, a leader at his company, American Pest Management, Manhattan, Kan. Hoke has been instrumental in APM transitioning to a more proactive approach to pest management. Read the entire article.
Gus Walker, PCT’s Residential Technician of the Year, is the go-to service professional at Greenville, S.C.-based Gregory Pest Solutions when it comes to solving difficult problems. For the past 29 years Walker has taken on leadership roles with Gregory when it comes to introducing new products and service offerings. Read the entire article.
A deep knowledge of pests and construction is key to the success of James Miners, PCT’s Termite Technician of the Year, and a leader at Western Pest Services’ Randolph, N.J. office. A 22-year industry veteran, Miners is respected by customers and coworkers for his expertise and ability to communicate with others. Read the entire article.
The 2018 program will launch in April. For more information about the program email email@example.com.
About the program: Since 1997, PCT has recognized outstanding service professional in the residential, commercial and termite categories with our annual Technicians of the Year Awards. Each year, PCT receives dozens of nominations from pest control companies throughout the United States of various size and make-up. Managers/owners were asked to evaluate service technicians in several areas including: technical skills; communication skills; service to company/community; and their mentoring role within the company. All the nominations are reviewed by a panel of pest control industry experts who determine the winners. During the last 20 years PCT has recognized 60 Technicians of the Year and more than 400 finalists from companies throughout the U.S., ranging from 3-person operations to companies at a pest control industry event. The awards are sponsored by BASF.
Entomology Today, the news website from the Entomological Society of America, announced it made a total of 210 posts published since January 1.
Here's a look at its "Top Viewed Posts" (from those published in 2017)
1. “Insecta” Documentary Explores the Beauty and Wonder of Entomology, November 29
2. First Report of Dwarf Deer Tick Comes as Overall Population Soars, by Leslie Mertz, June 7
3. Mosquito Repellents: DEET and PMD Sprays Most Effective, While Wearable Devices Disappoint, Study Finds, Febraury 17
4. Olive Tree is Second Non-Ash Species Found Vulnerable to Emerald Ash Borer, May 23
5. Survey: Bed Bugs Are the Last Thing Travelers Want to See in a Hotel Room, Even Though Most Can’t ID Them, June 13
View other ESA "Best ofs" at
AGAWAM, Mass. – For many people, it just isn’t the holiday season until their home has been properly adorned with twinkling lights, wreaths, trees and family-favorite items of décor. However, Braman Termite & Pest Elimination reminds eager homeowners about the importance of thoroughly inspecting holiday decorations, especially greenery, for signs of pests before decking the halls.
“Decorating is a traditional part of the holiday season, but pests such as spiders, ants and even rodents can easily hitch a ride indoors if boxes and greenery are not thoroughly inspected,” said Jerry Lazarus, third-generation owner of Braman Termite & Pest Elimination. “We tend to receive a lot of calls this time of year from homeowners dealing with mice. With all the friends and family people host for the holidays, a pest infestation is the last thing they need to be worried about.”
Hand-cut Christmas trees and other fresh greenery frequently house insects, spiders and their eggs. Boxes of decorations that have sat in storage during the past year, if not properly sealed, can become infested with rodents and their droppings.
“Mice and rats can carry harmful diseases, like Hantavirus,” said Lazarus. “Once inside your home, mice get into stored food products where their urine, fecal droppings and hairs quickly contaminate your cabinets, counter tops and cooking surfaces. Mice contaminate 10 times more food than they eat.”
Rodents can also damage property by chewing through wiring and insulation. “Stored holiday decorations can provide excellent nesting conditions,” said Lazarus, “so it they should be thoroughly inspected when unpacked.”
Lazarus and his team at Braman offer the following tips for preventing pests in holiday décor:
- Shake off trees, wreaths and garlands and carefully inspect them for pests or eggs that may be hiding in the branches before bringing them inside.
- Do-it-yourselfers creating natural decorations for their homes should also thoroughly inspect all foliage and greenery outside the home before beginning projects indoors.
- Store firewood on a raised structure that is located at least 20 feet away from the home and brush off wood before bringing it in the home.
- After pulling decorations out of storage, unpack them outdoors to check for pests, such as mice. Look inside boxes for rodent droppings or gnaw marks, especially on strings of lights to ensure the wiring is fully intact. Discard damaged items.
- When storing décor after the holiday season, use durable, sealed containers that pests can't chew through instead of cardboard boxes or plastic bags.
Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in the May 2017 issue of PCT.
What if employees could experience a termite swarm in December? Hone their inspection skills in multiple commercial settings without leaving the office? Or learn how pests enter structures by riding on their backs?
It’s possible with augmented and virtual technology, and it is available today and at a lower cost than you may realize.
Massey Services in Orlando will roll out the technology to supplement employee training in the near future. “It’s a present-day initiative,” said Sean Clifford, the company’s director of learning and development.
It’s far more than a high-tech fad. In fact, the entire learning industry is moving in this direction because it “allows us to do things that we’ve never been able to do before,” he said.
Unlike PowerPoint slides, the technology fully immerses employees in an environment. Augmented reality (AR) lets trainers insert virtual cues, text, objects, animations and videos into a real-world setting, giving users on-demand access to this information. Virtual reality (VR) creates a 3-D, computer-generated environment (like a video game) in which to train technicians.
“You can create any environment and any situation that you can think of and place the learner directly into it and make it as realistic as you’re willing to invest the time and effort,” said Clifford, who is incorporating both technologies in the Massey Services program.
To experience an AR environment, users wear a headset like the Microsoft HoloLens (about $3,500); for VR they may use HTC VIVE or Oculus Rift devices, which cost up to $800. A new $35 app by Zappar, however, can turn smartphones and tablets into AR/VR viewers, making it possible to put the technology “in the hands of every team member at minimal expense,” said Clifford. Massey Services helped crowd fund this U.K. start-up.
Another expense is developing the content (what employees see and learn). Massey Services partnered with Design Interactive, an Orlando-based developer that creates mixed AR and VR training solutions for military contractors, manufacturers and, more recently, pest management companies.
Costs vary depending on customization and project scope, but it’s not a huge dollar amount compared to what some firms spend on e-learning licensing and content, said Matthew Johnston, Design Interactive’s director of consumer experience.
Massey Services is looking at several ways to use the technology. It may install the Zappar app on employee tablets so each service center can provide AR-based training. In a center’s kitchenette, for example, employees could practice hands-on inspection techniques while getting guidance from videos or text seen in their headsets.
They might discover virtual termite frass and be able to enlarge a virtual termite to get a better understanding of the pest.
For more in-depth learning, the company may create centralized training centers. These might feature green-painted kitchens that can be virtually reskinned as residential or commercial food-service settings, as well as be adapted to teach irrigation and landscaping best practices. A mobile training trailer is another possibility.
Clifford is evaluating which delivery mode makes the best financial and logistical sense, as well as what is “best for the learner, because if we’re not changing a team member’s behavior or increasing their knowledge, then it’s not effective.”
OVERCOMING CHALLENGES. Training experts say AR and VR are more in line with how people learn today, especially younger generations raised on smartphones. They have different expectations than older employees and traditional textbooks, classroom presentations, even e-learning platforms, can be a real turn off, said Johnston. “Everybody expects knowledge-on-demand nowadays with the ability to Google anything,” added Clifford.
The technology also “allows us to control the environment” and replicate a standardized experience across the organization so everyone can learn the same thing and understand how to react in the same way, said Clifford. In comparison, real-life, in-field training experiences can vary a lot depending on weather, the pest season, and the teaching ability of senior technicians and managers.
When employees are distributed over a large area in multiple locations, AR/VR helps trainers “duplicate” themselves to quickly bring everyone up to speed on the latest regulation or onboard large numbers of seasonal employees, said Johnston.
AR, in particular, addresses the “transfer of knowledge problem” that companies face as baby boomers retire, he added. Knowledge (the kind not found in operating manuals) can be shared by placing virtual notes directly in a space, such as beside the client’s kitchen sink. This results in a more efficient transition of accounts, reduces guesswork and minimizes the production lag of new employees, he said.
And because simulations run on game development software, “you can track everything,” just like in a video game, said Clifford. Tracking metrics like accuracy, timeliness, choice of tools, product, application rates and more helps trainers determine employees’ level of competency, said Johnston.
The impact of poor training “isn’t just poor customer service,” he reminded. It directly affects the bottom line and potentially the health and safety of clients, employees and the environment, in addition to having repercussions for the entire industry.
CONSIDERATIONS. The technology isn’t for everyone. It can cause some users to become disoriented and nauseous. To alleviate these symptoms, Massey created best practices based on its user acceptance testing that include avoiding fast-moving backgrounds while users are sitting still.
And while costs eventually should decrease, at present AR/VR is most accessible to companies with deep pockets. Namely, the five largest firms in the PCT Top 100 for custom training programs; top 40 for standardized solutions, said Johnston.
Neither will it completely replace traditional learning methods. “Effective training is all about giving people the knowledge, the skills and the abilities to effectively and efficiently perform their job,” reminded Johnston. AR/VR technology is “simply a tool. Every tool has its place,” added Clifford. That’s why it’s important to partner with a training expert who can help you “impact key performance metrics,” not someone who will sell you an AR/VR system as an end-all solution, said Johnston.
Still, when it comes to exciting and engaging learners, AR/VR is powerful. With it, “you can create a desire to learn,” said Clifford.
The author is a frequent contributor to PCT.