South Bay Members Support Bridging the Generational Gap Among Workers

Most workplaces have four generations under their roofs – Millennials, Generation X, Baby Boomers and Traditionalists. ES and PMA members at the Santa Clara Valley Water District are finishing up their first year by celebrating the qualities and skills of each age group.

Local 21’s two chapters at the Water District are the Engineers Society (ES) and Professional Managers Association (PMA). Along with the District’s AFSCME Unit the Employees Association (EA), Local 21’s ES and PMA members have been strong supporters of Developing and Recognizing Y-Generation Professionals (DRYP).

“When I started here, there were not a lot of young people. We started to have an influx of people in their 20s and young 30s start at the District,” said Sami Buglewicz, DRYP Board Member, EA Member, and Staff Analyst at the District. “It was a no-brainer for us to get a group together.”

As workplace demographics change, employers and employees are responding with new ways to engage and motivate their colleagues. Nearly 800 employees work at the Water District, providing clean drinking water, flood protection, and stream stewardship across Santa Clara County.

The average age of a District employee is 48.7 years, with 65.5 percent of workers eligible for retirement now or within the next 10 years. “I wanted to be involved because it’s important to have the transitional help. The District is going to have a lot more new people coming in,” said Eric Leitterman, DRYP member, ES Internal Affairs Chair, and Assistant Engineer.

DRYP has no age limit for its 70 members, is comprised of a diverse group of staff, and focuses on helping workers from all backgrounds learn from each other. “DRYP is really great about inclusivity and bridging the gap between all generations. DRYP serves as an opportunity to bring millennials together, but also to get other generations to collaborate and share the wisdom that they’ve gathered over the years,” said Ricardo Barajas, DRYP Board Member, EA Member, and Public Information Representative at the District.

In its first year, DRYP members have organized brown bag sessions with upper management, attended college job fairs, held study sessions for the Professional Engineer (PE) exam, provided feedback on attracting new employees, and mentored summer interns.

“The PE cram session gave an opportunity to new employees to meet and get help from colleagues who have passed the exam,” said Lizzie Mercado, DRYP Board Member, ES Member, and Assistant Civil Engineer.

A strong focus is also placed on advising and job coaching. “Mentorship is a two-way street,” said Jessica Bolanos, DRYP Board Member, and Assistant Engineer.  “We can share information with one another and collaborate across generations to better the District. It’s a good way to create that bond.” For example, DRYP Board Members said many newer workers can be intimidated by large employers like the Water District, or need help navigating workplace policies and procedures. Sami, Ricardo, Lizzie, Eric and Jessica have been with the District less than five years.

Longtime employee and DRYP Board Member Keneth Jackson says veterans can also learn from newer employees. “(DRYP) gives tenured staff a fresh look at the District,” said Keneth, EA Member, and Management Analyst I. “I receive a dose of positivity from the members of DRYP. DRYP provides (employees) with a great outlook on the workplace and life.”