Fighting the Looming Operator Void

Posted by Christine Gunsaullus on Friday, November 4, 2016

Water/Wastewater Operator Void

A knowledge and experience void is quickly approaching the water & wastewater industries.

You may have heard or be seeing first-hand how the water/wastewater operator workforce is aging, and a shortage will soon develop for properly qualified and trained operators. The 2010 Water Sector Workforce Sustainability Initiative Report by the Water Research Foundation (Denver, CO) estimated that 30% to 50% of the water/wastewater workforce could retire within the next 10 years. While the recent recession delayed retirement for some workers, and technology is replacing some jobs, there will always be a need for hands-on workers at the majority of plants 24/7. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s (PADEP) Certification Program Advisory Committee’s November 2015 Report indicated that over 64% of Pennsylvania water and wastewater operators are 50 years or older, and less than 14% are under 40 years of age.

To help meet this looming challenge head-on, two Pennsylvania Colleges implemented water/wastewater operator training programs and we’ve joined the fight. In addition to the many industry events where Entech experts teach and share their knowledge, two of our employees are inspiring and training the next generation of operators first-hand. Heath Edelman, PE, LO, CHMM, and Mike Sassaman, LO, teach water and wastewater systems operations and maintenance classes at Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology (Thaddeus Stevens) and Reading Area Community College (RACC) respectively.

Having well-trained, qualified operators is crucial to the water and wastewater industries, as well to our success at Entech. Owner and operator input is essential to our collaborative project process. The more operators know about their systems, the more they can contribute. We’ve found that in almost every successful project, the client’s internal knowledge and perspective blends with our external perspective and expertise, to create a detailed picture of the situation and challenges, leading to better solutions to overcome them. This would not be possible without experienced and qualified operators and managers.

There is still much work to be done to overcome the looming water and wastewater void, but you can help. If you have knowledge, get involved and teach. If you’re a water/wastewater employer, connect with the institutions that have water/wastewater programs. Both RACC and Thaddeus Stevens have internship programs, and are always looking for employers with whom to place students to gain hands-on experience and contribute.

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More on Thaddeus Stevens & Heath Edelman:

Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology LogoThaddeus Stevens is the only state run technical school, placing over 95% of their graduates in fields of employment, and offering students a two-year Associates Degree in one of 22 program areas. Their two-year Water and Environmental Technology (WET) program is currently the only PADEP accredited Associates Degree of its kind in Pennsylvania.

Heath is teaching two classes at Thaddeus Stevens through their WET program, and students rave about his tours of treatment plants. He realizes that it’s critical to speak at the students’ level, and convey what they actually need to know. This way, they can build on that knowledge to be able to think on the job, an extremely important part of troubleshooting and plant process control.

Laurie Grove is the director of career services. Contact her for more information.

More on RACC & Michael Sassaman:

Reading Area Community College LogoA two-year institution of higher education, RACC offers educational and training programs to meet the needs of the Reading community.

For the past seven years, Michael has taught a variety of wastewater classes at RACC. He finds the feedback from future operators to be very rewarding, and has a knack for teaching to maximize comprehension. Even better is when the students graduate and become certified operators or superintendents of local systems, so he has the opportunity to continue working with them at a professional level.

Allison Creveling is the Community Education Coordinator. Contact her for more information.

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Christine Gunsaullus

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Categories: Municipal Infrastructure

Tagged: Potable Water  |  Wastewater

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