Critter Gitters, like many other ‘dirty jobs’ businesses, needs more employees | Local News


CALEDONIA — There are two types of people in the world: those who are experts at killing pests and those who squirm at the sight of them.

And according to Critter Gitters, a Caledonia-based exterminator company which recently won Best of Racine County in the pest control category, the number of experts are dwindling.

The workforce is seeing a nationwide shortage in general sparked by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, but the pest control industry has been experiencing this shortage for quite some time, said Carolyn and Wally Ross, the owners of Critter Gitters, Inc.

More than a year ago, around October 2020, the company started looking to hire another pest control specialist to add to their already small team. Critter Gitters still has not found anyone.

“It’s very difficult to find somebody because they need to be certified and licensed by the Department of Agriculture,” said Wally.

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Shortage of trade workersThe shortage of workers in the pest control industry speaks to the overall shortage of workers in trades and “dirty jobs,” as Wally calls them.



Rowe

Mike Rowe, host of the Discovery Channel series “Dirty Jobs” that ran for eight seasons from 2003-2012, said in an interview earlier this year with PBS that other than the literal dirty nature of the jobs featured in his show, certain stigmas have pulled potential workers away from pursuing trades.

“The push for one form of education, in my view, really was the beginning of a long list of stigmas and stereotypes and myths and misperceptions that to this day dissuade millions of kids from pursuing a legitimate opportunity to make six figures in the trades,” said Rowe, who has become an advocate for workers and employers in the trades.

He continued: “In the eyes of many parents, and in the eyes of many counselors, the trade school was the thing you did if you weren’t cut out for university.”

In the Rosses’ case, though, although there’s no degree needed to become a pest control specialist, there’s still mandatory education to be had.



Wally and Carolyn Ross

From left, Wally and Carolyn Ross are the owners of Caledonia-based Critter Gitters, Inc.


Diana Panuncial


“They have to be smart enough to pass the state certification test,” Wally said. Potential pest control specialists are given a large manual to study off of themselves, and they must score a C or higher to be certified.

The difficulty of the test depends on the person taking it, Wally said. But, there are a lot of technicalities in the pest control industry that must be mastered.

“We have to know a little bit about biology, chemistry … They also have to know the laws of Wisconsin as they pertain to pesticide application,” he said. “Let’s face it, our customers are repulsed by the creepy crawlers that we kill for them. So there’s more people that become customers but we’re also asking for just a few that would be interested in getting rid of those nasties, too.”



Critter Gitters

Employees Brandon Ross, technician/field supervisor, and Ryan Thorell, technician, pose in front of the Critter Gitters’ vehicles. 



Critter Gitters’ reputation as a small, family-owned business has given them some leverage as to how long customers are willing to wait for their service, said Carolyn.

But the company’s employees are still susceptive to burnout. They worked 60 hours a week on average during the summer busy season.

“As the end of October comes around, and they all kind of take a sigh of relief, they take that deep breath, and they go, ‘Wow, we made it through another busy season.’ And him and I do the same thing,” Carolyn said.

The pandemic has exacerbated the need for more trade workers, but Wally said the case of pest control is a little more dire, as certain pests carry diseases or can be harmful overall.

“We feel bad that we can’t give them immediate service,” Wally said. “I truly feel horrible for anybody with bedbugs and, I want to get to them, like yesterday. But I can’t ignore the my current customers that are already scheduled. The only fair way to do it is to as take them as they come, first come first serve type of queue.”



Exterminator in Kitchen

Bud Fries, IPM Technical Advisor with Wil-Kil Pest Control, applies a dose of “Siege,” a fatal roach bait, inside a kitchen cabinet of an apartment during a treatment for cockroaches on Thursday, May 17, 2001, in Madison.



The Rosses said one possible antidote for the worker shortage in the trades is earlier exposure to those opportunities in high school.

“Maybe if people were given the opportunity to at least look into it in a school setting, then they might find out that it’s not so bad after all,” Wally said.

“The whole reason I started doing this way back in 1976, was to help people. … The bonus was to be able to make a few bucks doing it. You know, so it was a win-win,” he said.

PHOTOS: Reflecting on COVID-19 in the Midwest, one year later

Williams Bay, Wisconsin

Williams Bay, Wisconsin

For students who cannot visit the library because of the coronavirus, library staffers Laura Lombardo, left, and Emily Sanders, greet second-graders from Williams Bay Elementary School via a laptop computer camera at Barrett Memorial Library in Williams Bay, Wisconsin, in September 2020. 



Racine, Wisconsin

Racine, Wisconsin

Jeremy Laffin, owner/pharmacist at Racine Hometown Pharmacy in Wisconsin, gives a brief consultation to patients prior to getting their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday, March 9. Laffin walked back and forth, preparing doses behind the counter, then administering them to patients.



Racine, Wisconsin

Racine, Wisconsin

Summer Davis wears a face shield while standing behind the bar at The Maple Table, a popular restaurant in Racine, Wisconsin, on May 26, 2020, the first day restaurants in the city could reopen following ordered closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic.



Racine, Wisconsin

Racine, Wisconsin

Jordan Mogren arrived to Park High School’s drive-up graduation ceremony in Racine, Wisconsin, on July 9 through the sun roof and received a kiss from his mother receiving his diploma.



Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin

Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin

Tracy Twigg, a poll worker, opens a stack of absentee ballots to be tabulated at the Pleasant Prairie Village Hall on Monday, April 13, 2020.



Madison, Wisconsin

Madison, Wisconsin

Hawk Sullivan, owner of Hawk’s Bar & Grill in Madison, Wisconsin, was forced to close his restaurant temporarily in March 2020. At least 28 Madison-area restaurants went out of business last year.



Madison, Wisconsin

Madison, Wisconsin

In hindsight, the marquee over the Orpheum Theater in Downtown Madison, Wisconsin, seen here on March 23, 2020, was overly optimistic. Closures of theaters, restaurants, bars and other businesses would stretch well beyond March.



Madison, Wisconsin

Madison, Wisconsin

UW-Madison graduates, from left, Jacob Tottleben, of St. Louis, Lindsey Fischer, of La Crosse, and Olivia Gonzalez, of Milwaukee, celebrate wiith champagne after their spring commencement ceremony was moved online on May 9, 2020.



Madison, Wisconsin

Madison, Wisconsin

Members of the UW-Madison marching band wear face coverings and play instruments with bell covers during a limited-capacity practice session on the campus on Aug. 27, 2020.



Lake Geneva, Wisconsin

Lake Geneva, Wisconsin

Many shoppers and visitors forgo face masks and other public health guidelines on Main Street in downtown Lake Geneva as stores reopen May 17 during the coronavirus pandemic. Many people flocked from Illinois to Lake Geneva after a Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling allowed Wisconsin businesses to reopen.



Lake Geneva, Wisconsin

Lake Geneva, Wisconsin

Lake Geneva aldermen and city staff gather via video May 19, 2020, to avoid spreading the coronavirus, during a special meeting in which the city council voted to open Riviera Beach to the public.



La Crosse, Wisconsin

La Crosse, Wisconsin

A sign reads “We Are Open,” outside of Bean Juice coffee shop at Jackson Plaza in La Crosse, Wisconsin, in April.



La Crosse, Wisconsin

La Crosse, Wisconsin

Fellow registered nurses look on as their colleague, Sheila Berra, administers the first COVID-19 vaccine in La Crosse to Tom Jensen, a COVID-19 patient care technician, at Mayo Clinic Health System in December. The vaccine was delivered earlier in the day by Wisconsin State Troopers.



La Crosse, Wisconsin

La Crosse, Wisconsin

Bonnie and Dan Felton wave to passersby as they impersonate Santa and Mrs. Claus from a storefront window at Duluth Trading Co. in downtown La Crosse, Wisconsin, in November 2020. Instead of the usual up-close visits inside the store, The Feltons, due to the COVID-19 pandemic will appear in the window several afternoons a week during the Holiday season.



La Crosse, Wisconsin

La Crosse, Wisconsin

Anita Sachs reads her ballot at the Coulee Recovery Center in La Crosse, Wisconsin, before voting in the April primary election. Despite an effort by Gov. Tony Evers to delay the election amid the COVID-19 pandemic, voting went on as planned.



La Crosse, Wisconsin

La Crosse, Wisconsin

Sam Turner, a kindergartener at Southern Bluffs Elementary School in La Crosse, Wisconsin, wears a mask during his first day of class in nearly ten months after the La Crosse School District welcomed back students for in-person learning.



Kenosha, Wisconsin

Kenosha, Wisconsin

Matt Sullivan looks through binoculars as he and his wife, Kristin, settle in to watch the Indian Trail football team play Oak Creek in a Southeast Conference game on Friday night, Sept. 25, at Jaskwhich Stadium in Kenosha, Wisconsin. School district requirements in place due to the COVID-19 outbreak kept the stands at the stadium empty, but parents and fans found ways to see the game where they could.



Kenosha, Wisconsin

Kenosha, Wisconsin

Robert Clayton walks with his grandchildren, Greyson, 5, and Harper, 4, around the track at UW-Parkside in Kenosha on Saturday, Aug. 1, 2020. Kenosha’s Relay for Life took place with many participating virtually — walking laps, sharing supportive stories and hearing presentations via social media. Another difference this year was having a sole honorary cancer survivor at the event. Clayton, 56, was declared free of the disease by November 2017, after getting the disease after his retirement from work in 2003. He walked around the track at UW-Parkside with family to celebrate his cancer-free status. 



Kenosha, Wisconsin

Kenosha, Wisconsin

Wearing their COVID masks, Eric Itzenhuiser and Heather Lawler are married by the Rev. Johnny Poole at their home in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Saturday, May 2. Life went on despite the pandemic.



Genoa City, Wisconsin

Genoa City, Wisconsin

Teacher Haley Peters removes ottomans July 30, 2020, from her classroom at Brookwood Middle School as the Genoa City school aims to combat the coronavirus by eliminating places where the virus could spread.



Fontana-on-Geneva-Lake, Wisconsin

Fontana-on-Geneva-Lake, Wisconsin

With the coronavirus outbreak prompting many people to wear hospital masks in public, someone decided that the Chief Big Foot statue on the Fontana lakefront should be protected, too, along with a latex glove that does not quite fit right.



Dunn, Wisconsin

Dunn, Wisconsin

Robert Wilson of the town of Dunn in Dane County, Wisconsin, reviews his selections on his ballot after voting at the town’s highway garage building on April 7, 2020. Democrats sought to delay the election in light of the surging pandemic, but the state Supreme Court ordered it be held as originally scheduled.



Caledonia, Wisconsin

Caledonia, Wisconsin

The Rev. Mike Matheson of Grace Church, in Caledonia, Wisconsin, prays as he leads church services livestreamed on Facebook Live on the morning of March 22. 



Burlington, Wisconsin

Burlington, Wisconsin

JR Lukenbill, a sophomore guard at Wisconsin’s Burlington High School, shoots over Wilmot High School’s Anthony Corona, left, and Korik Klein during their teams’ December matchup. As a precaution to prevent the spread of COVID-19, players wore masks in high school athletics events, including in basketball and volleyball.



Burlington, Wisconsin

Burlington, Wisconsin

During an extraordinary and nearly postponed April election, one of the leaders of Wisconsin’s Republican legislative majority, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos of Rochester, talks to a member of the media while working as a poll worker in Burlington, Wisconsin. “You are incredibly safe to go out,” he told viewers while wearing required personal protective equipment in a video that was shared widely on social media throughout the day.



Burlington, Wisconsin

Burlington, Wisconsin

A man and a girl swing at Echo Park in Burlington, Wisconsin, on May 2 during a ReOpen Burlington protest, even though all playgrounds in Wisconsin had been declared off limits at the time. 



Barboo, Wisconsin

Barboo, Wisconsin

John Handlen, vice president of operations for Madison-based Biodome Protection, uses an electrostatic sprayer to apply an antimicrobial surface protectant to the chairs on Sept. 29, 2020, at Al. Ringling Theatre in Baraboo. 



Portage, Wisconsin

Portage, Wisconsin

Aidan Black gives an “air high-five” to Principal Joshua Sween on June 5, 2020, during Portage High School’s socially-distanced, drive-by graduation ceremony. Students along with their families in vehicles were escorted down School Road by Portage and Columbia County first responders and then walked across the stage with their diplomas and finished up with an “air high-five” with Sween. “We wanted them to have some closure,” Sween said of the pandemic-adjusted ceremony that also gave the families a chance to take pictures with graduates in front of the high school.



Cambria, Wisconsin

Cambria, Wisconsin

Jordon Anderson of the Wisconsin National Guard waits to bag a sample Oct. 23, 2020, as Wyatt Anderson works next to him during the first biweekly COVID-19 free community testing event at the Cambria Fire Department in Cambria, Wisconsin.



Fountain Prairie, Wisconsin

Fountain Prairie, Wisconsin

Gail Schneider maintains a safe distance while photographing the Beaver family April 2, 2020, at their brand new house in the town of Fountain Prairie, Wisconsin. Schneider joins photographers across the nation in the “Front Porch Project,” which tells the story of home life in the time of COVID-19.



Bloomington, Illinois

Bloomington, Illinois

The statue called “Convergence of Purpose” featuring Abraham Lincoln and associates Jesse Fell and David Davis sports face masks on March 30 in Bloomington, Illinois. 



Bloomington, Illinois

Bloomington, Illinois

A Reditus Laboratories technician wearing a face shield instructs a subject how to use a nasa swab to test for the coronavirus at the testing site at the McLean County Fairgrounds, Wednesday, July 22, 2020. 



Bloomington, Illinois

Bloomington, Illinois

Bruce Unterman joined about 30 protesters who called for Congress to pass a COVID-19 relief package during a protest Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020, at the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts in Bloomington, Illinois. 



Bloomington, Illinois

Bloomington, Illinois

More than 100 vehicles waited in line as people waited to be tested for COVID-19 at the Reditus Laboratories testing site at the Interstate Center in Bloomington, Illinois, on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020. 



Carbondale, Illinois

Carbondale, Illinois

A student at Unity Point in Carbondale, Illinois, displays signs for teachers and staff at the school as families drove through the parking lot where the staff had gathered on April 21 after the pandemic forced the school to go to remote learning.



Carbondale, Illinois

Carbondale, Illinois

Doug Robinson, owner of Keepers Quarters in Carbondale, Illinois, measures the space between tables on May 27 as he prepares to start offering outside dining on Friday as part of the next phase of reopening Illinois’ economy.



Carbondale, Illinois

Carbondale, Illinois

Heath Hill, left, cuts a customer’s hair at the Murdale Barbershop on May 29 in Carbondale, Illinois. It was the first day the shop had been open in two months due to the restrictions imposed by the state in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.



Carbondale, Illinois

Carbondale, Illinois

A sign reminds voters to wear a mask and socially distance in the 13th Precinct polling place at the Epiphany Lutheran Church on Nov. 3 in Carbondale, Illinois. 



Carbondale, Illinois

Carbondale, Illinois

Lori Opp works with her fifth grade class on vocabulary words from her classroom at Lewis Elementary School on Nov. 16 as the school district returned to remote learning due to rising COVID-19 cases.



Charleston, Illinois

Charleston, Illinois

A sign reminds students to wear a mask and maintain social distance as they walk to and from class on the campus of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois, in September. 



Charleston, Illinois

Charleston, Illinois

Ginger Stanfield leads the Charleston Community Band at the Coles County Fairgrounds on July 3. More than 90 vehicles and 250 people were at the socially distanced concert.



Decatur, Illinois

Decatur, Illinois

Hunter Highfill works at an Illinois Department of Public Health COVID testing site at the Decatur Civic Center on Oct. 26 in Decatur, Illinois. 



Decatur, Illinois

Decatur, Illinois

Vehicles wait at a COVID testing site at the Farm Progress Site in Decatur, Illinois, on Jan. 22.



Decatur, Illinois

Decatur, Illinois

Stickers await people who participated in a COVID vaccination clinic on Jan. 22 at the Farm Progress site in Decatur, Illinois. 



Decatur, Illinois

Decatur, Illinois

Fourth grade instructor Sarah Smith listens to Assistant Director Dave Webster talk about doves during a “virtual field trip” to Scovill Zoo in Decatur, Illinois, on Sept. 11.



Decatur, Illinois

Decatur, Illinois

Becca Massey and her daughter Kierra Massey, surprised her aunt, Becky Pickrell, on her 101st birthday by singing happy birthday on March 26 at Randall Residence in Decatur, Illinois. They both had to sing in the front of the building through glass so that everyone would be safe.



Mattoon, Illinois

Mattoon, Illinois

Police Sgt. Chad Smith speaks with visitors at a COVID-19 check in at Lake Land College in Mattoon, Illinois, on Sept. 3.



Mattoon, Illinois

Mattoon, Illinois

Callyn Ballinger, 7, holds a sign she made for health care workers outside Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Center in December in Mattoon, Illinois. 



Normal, Illinois

Normal, Illinois

Ellen Straight held a sign wishing her father, Oliver Bidner, love as dozens of cars paraded through The Loft Rehabilitation & Nursing, 510 Broadway in Normal, Illinois, Friday, May 1, 2020. Visits at The Loft were stopped at the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak.



Tuscola, Illinois

Tuscola, Illinois

Tuscola High School Principal Steve Fiscus sanitizes the gym before the start of the varsity game against Arthur-Lovington-Atwood-Hammond on Jan. 29. 



Munster, Indiana

Munster, Indiana

From left, Juanita Dortch, Katie Novosel and Michelle Geissler, X-ray technicians at Community Hospital, take a selfie together with first responders in the background on April 19, 2020, in Munster. Police and firefighters from north Lake County and several Illinois agencies paraded around the hospital to recognize the health care workers.



Merrillville, Indiana

Merrillville, Indiana

Nick Gianikos, a housing board member at the AHEPA apartments in Merrillville, Indiana, receives his Moderna COVID-19 vaccine from Walgreens pharmacist Mindy Keeton on Jan. 11, 2021.



Hammond, Indiana

Hammond, Indiana

Franciscan Health Hammond health care workers wave to first responders as they parade around the hospital on April 27, 2020.



Crown Point, Indiana

Crown Point, Indiana

Keith Moseley, an election clerk, sorts through returned absentee ballots on Oct. 5 at the Lake County Board of Elections and Registration at the Lake County Government Center in Crown Point, Indiana. 



Crown Point, Indiana

Crown Point, Indiana

Wendy Vottero, a nurse practitioner at Franciscan Health Crown Point, receives a COVID-19 vaccine shot from Rob Dowling, director of emergency medical service, on Dec. 18, 2020, at the hospital in Crown Point, Indiana. 



Winona, Minnesota

Winona, Minnesota

Students of the Service Learning Class at Winona Senior High School gathered outside of Winona Health in Winona, Minnesota, in April 2020 to thank the health-care workers for all their hard work during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Co-leader Christine Dahlke (holding the letter A) expressed gratitude for those in the community who are continuing to work during the present circumstances. “Just keep supporting your local businesses and your local hospitals,” she said. “It’s always good to say thank you. I hope we inspire someone.”



Winona, Minnesota

Winona, Minnesota

Campus traditions to celebrate Halloween and other holidays, like the one pictured at Saint Mary’s University in Winona, Minnesota, looked different this year, as students wore masks to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.



Winona, Minnesota

Winona, Minnesota

Young children, like Addison Brand, pictured, face a new reality of having to wear masks during their childhood progress exams — something that many parents decided not to complete this year in fear of the pandemic. Brand attended her appointment at the Gundersen Winona Campus in Winona, Minnesota. 



Winona, Minnesota

Winona, Minnesota

Testing is completed at the Winona Mall’s mass semi-permanent testing site in November in Winona, Minnesota. 



Winona, Minnesota

Winona, Minnesota

Dr. Joseph Kaiya, pictured, was the first health care worker to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at Winona Health Dec. 18 in Winona, Minnesota. 



Horicon, Wisconsin

Horicon, Wisconsin

From left, Riley Peterman and Gianna Begg hold handmade signs showing support for the teachers of Horicon, Wisconsin. Faculty and staff paraded through Burnett, Iron Ridge and Horicon on May 1, 2020, honking and waving to district students and families along the way. Schools were mandated to close this spring due to the coronavirus pandemic.



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