Maintaining people an important part of maintenance work

Mike Ashcraft

In the sporting world, Rusty Kuse would be akin to a general manger/coach/player.

The building maintenance supervisor wears many different hats (and, sometimes, masks) as part of his job.

Kuse, who has been supervisor for a year and a half, oversees a staff of 13 that makes up the All-Campus Preventative Maintenance’s second and third shift crews.

Kuse plays the role of general manager when he decides who to hire to work on one of the tougher maintenance shifts on campus and figures out how to motivate workers to want to stay on the late-night shifts.

He wears the hat of coach when he travels out into the field every Sunday through Thursday from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. and keeps a watchful eye on his crews, pointing out mistakes they are making and teaching them how to correct their errors. Sometimes, Kuse even dives into some projects and gets his hands dirty right along with his crews to a complete a task.

“It is a balancing act,” said Kuse. “I try to make it a fun atmosphere. When we have to get down and dirty and do the work, we do the work and get it done, but I try to make it a little more laid-back and a little bit more of an open atmosphere. I don’t want to have a dictatorship.”

Before Kuse throws his new hires into action, he must first train them on how to effectively and safely perform their jobs. This is a long and extensive process that weeds out those who can get the job done from those who can’t.

“They go through pretty intensive training,” said Kuse. “My new guys that come in go through approximately 18 different training sessions. It all deals with safety.”

Training includes respiratory protection, how to wear respirators and the proper usage of them. Workers also learn blood form pathage and cleanup, so they know the proper way to clean up and protect themselves in the process.

Kuse said he has to do a lot of training because second because third shifts aren’t the preferred shifts for a lot of people and there is high turnover.

“In the last six months, I’ve probably had to train five new guys. That’s a lot of ongoing training and a lot of extra work initially to get them up to speed,” he said. “Once they are up to speed, I really want to try and things to retain them on second and third shift.”

Part of Kuse’s job is trying to figure out how to make these jobs into “premier” maintenance positions.

“I’ve got talented people that come on, but we’re trying to do things to retain them,” said Kuse. “We’re trying to work with the union to recognize ACPM as a classification that might be a little bit higher of a status to bump their pay up to try and retain the employees for a longer period of time.”

Kuse is always on the lookout for workers with a wide range of skills and notes that flexibility is near the top of the list for qualities he looks for in a potential hire.

“We could come across electrical, plumbing carpentry, you name it,” said Kuse. “We kind of need to know a little bit about all the trades to do our job. There are people that tried to get on ACPM that didn’t have the broad range of skills that were able to get into a more specific trade.”

As someone who started out working on a maintenance crew to now overseeing one, Kuse sells the chance of working through the ranks as one of the incentives of working on ACPM.

“We’re looking for people who want to make a career out of this and are looking for advancement opportunities,” Kuse said. “You can come in, take the skills that you have and really be able to expand on them and learn more and get to be more refined in those and move onto a different job down the road.”

Contact career services reporter Mike Ashcraft at [email protected].