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Veterans Career Day-Veterans Day-Work For Water-Military

Celebrating Veterans with a Career Day in Water

The San Diego County Water Authority and its 24 member agencies recognize military veterans for their service and actively recruit vets to fill new career opportunities in the water and wastewater industry. The San Diego County region employs about 4,500 water and wastewater workers, many of whom have successfully transitioned from the military to a new career.

Water and wastewater career day

The Center for Water Studies at Cuyamaca College and San Diego County water agencies are hosting a free career day on January 19, 2022 from 8:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. for veterans looking to transition their careers into the water and wastewater industry. Many water agencies are hiring, and veterans have key skills needed to provide safe, reliable drinking water for San Diego communities.

Veterans will have the opportunity to meet water agency recruiters, learn about pay and benefits, and receive advice on different career pathways and fast-tracked educational opportunities. Registration is online at CenterforWaterStudies.org. The Water Authority is co-sponsoring the in-person event.

A transition to the water world

During a webinar hosted by the Water Authority, Leaders2020, and San Diego Green Drinks in October, Otay Water District General Manager Jose Martinez, a U.S. Navy veteran, spoke about his experience transitioning from the military to the water industry. One challenge Martinez faced was the difference in terminology used between the military and water industries.

As the Vice Chairperson of the American Water Works Association California/Nevada Veteran Engagement and Transition Committee, Martinez discussed the work being carried out to provide direct pipelines and pathways to the water industry. One such pipeline was Assembly Bill 1588, legislation championed by Otay Water District and the Water Authority that passed in 2019. The bill, sponsored by Todd Gloria and Adam Gray, provides experience and education credits toward State water and wastewater certifications.

Water Workforce Webinar

‘Silver tsunami’ of retirements in water industry

The opportunities for both transitioning servicemembers and local water agencies are significant. More than 30,000 service members separate from the military each year in California, and more than half are transitioning out of active duty in the San Diego region. Roughly half of the current water industry workforce in the San Diego region will be eligible to retire in the next 15 years – and approximately 1,400 water and wastewater industry jobs are expected to open in the region in the next five years.

In October 2020, The Water Authority and its 24 member agencies launched a new website – SanDiegoWaterWorks.org – that provides the first comprehensive posting of regional water and wastewater industry job openings in one location. The San Diego Water Works website includes:

  • Current water and wastewater job postings in the San Diego region
  • Training and education resources, career advice and internship programs
  • Featured jobs that highlight rewarding careers in the water industry
  • Information about special training programs and internships for military veterans
  • Tips and resources for transitioning military

San Diego Water Works Website

(Editor’s note: For a story about the successful transition of military veterans to the water and wastewater industry, including a video of a USMC veteran working for the Vallecitos Water District, one of the San Diego County Water Authority’s 24 member agencies that deliver water across the metropolitan San Diego region, go to: waternewsnetwork.com/veterans-serving-public-in-water-industry-careers/)

Lance Cpl. Daniel Bordenave, a water support technician with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force - Southern Command, sets up a lightweight water purification system during a command post exercise at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Water support technician Marines used lightweight water purification systems to purify water before providing it to the combat engineer Marines working at another site. Photo: Marines.mil Lance Cpl. Daniel Bordenave, a water support technician with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force - Southern Command, sets up a lightweight water purification system during a command post exercise at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Water support technician Marines used lightweight water purification systems to purify water before providing it to the combat engineer Marines working at another site. Photo: Marines.mil

Veterans Serving Public in Water Industry Careers

Water industry professionals and members of the U.S. armed forces have a shared commitment to serving the public. When they leave active-duty roles, military veterans tap their experience and skills to work in water sector jobs. The San Diego County Water Authority and its 24 member agencies, recognizes the contributions of veterans to the San Diego region’s water industry on Veterans Day and throughout the year.

The San Diego County region employs approximately 4,500 water and wastewater workers, many of whom have successfully transitioned from the military to a new career. Vallecitos Water District Senior Water Systems Operator Richie Arballo said his experience in the U.S. Marine Corps planted the seed.

“Water, potable water, is always a great mission”

“My job in the military was a water support technician,” said Arballo. “I didn’t really know much about water. I just knew I loved working with water.”

At Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, North Carolina, Arballo worked with water distribution, water purification, and water installation.

“As a veteran, you’re trained to always complete your job,” he said. “You never leave anything undone. In the military, you never leave anyone behind. We know the mission comes first. Water, potable water, is always a great mission.”

Water and wastewater careers are a good fit

Lance Cpl. Anthony Bryan, a water support technician with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force - Southern Command, reviews recently purified water’s chlorine level during an exercise at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Water support technician Marines used lightweight water purification systems to purify water before providing it to the combat engineer Marines working at another site. Photo: Marines.mil

Lance Cpl. Anthony Bryan, a water support technician with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force – Southern Command, reviews recently purified water’s chlorine level during an exercise at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Water support technician Marines used lightweight water purification systems to purify water before providing it to the combat engineer Marines working at another site. Photo: Marines.mil

Dr. Stuart Karasik, former training manager for the City of San Diego, listed these reasons why water industry careers are so well suited to veterans:

  • They develop leadership responsibilities early in their careers. Military squad leaders are frequently in their early 20s.
  • They respond calmly in stressful situations and maintain focus on their mission. Stressful situations can be the norm in the military and standard in the water sector.
  • They possess a personal sense of responsibility and duty.
  • There is consistent reinforcement of the importance of teamwork and individual responsibility to complete any mission.
  • They have good organization skills. Scheduling, planning, and workflow are critical activities in the water sector.
Richie Arballo credits his own Marine Corps training for his successful transitionn to a civilian water industry career. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Richie Arballo credits his own Marine Corps training for his successful transition to a civilian water industry career. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Arballo encouraged veterans to seek training at one of the many San Diego regional programs at community colleges, including Cuyamaca College Center for Water Studies, Palomar College, CSU San Marcos, and National University. Options range from certificate programs to public administration and engineering degrees.

“If you are making the decision to get out of the military, don’t be scared,” said Arballo. “The military has prepared you to be very reliable and responsible. Employers out here, that’s what they’re looking for.”

For current jobs in the San Diego County region’s water and wastewater industry, go to: www.sandiegowaterworks.org/

(Editor’s note: The Vallecitos Water District and Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton are two of the San Diego County Water Authority’s 24 member agencies that deliver water across the metropolitan San Diego region.)

Members of the Rasmusssen family (L to R) Ed, Eric, and Howard Rasmussen. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

Dinner Table Lessons Launch Water Industry Careers

Jobs in the water and wastewater industry provide stable employment in meaningful careers, delivering a vital resource families and businesses depend on. With half of all current employees expected to retire in the next 15 years, recruitment efforts hope to fill many of these essential positions.

Family ties provide a positive influence in filling these roles with the next generation of water professionals in several water agencies in San Diego County.

In many professions, exposure to career choices at the dinner table has a statistically significant influence. For more than four decades, the University of Chicago has tracked family and career trends in its General Social Survey. The survey found that younger generations often pursue careers due to early exposure to career paths, how they value certain skills, and even inherited aptitudes for building things or language.

Rasmussens share sense of pride

The Rasmussen family represents a collective 35 years of employment at the Sweetwater Authority. Photo: San Diego County Water AuthorityThe Rasmussen family represents a collective 35 years of employment at the Sweetwater Authority. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

The Rasmussen family – (L to R) Eric, Craig, and Howard – represents a collective 35 years of employment at the Sweetwater Authority. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

Three members of the Rasmussen family are currently employed at the Sweetwater Authority.

Howard Rasmussen started 24 years ago after several attempts to land an entry-level job. He was working in construction and looking for a change.

“They’re really great jobs,” said Rasmussen, who is now a Maintenance Lead Worker helping maintain multiple facilities. “It’s quite amazing and pretty gratifying knowing I’m contributing to my community.”

Seven years ago, son Eric Rasmussen followed his father into the profession after working for a decade at a home improvement retailer and pursuing an electrical apprenticeship. His water career started as a Utility Worker, and four years ago he was promoted to Equipment Operator.

“I really do love operating,” said Eric Rasmussen. “To tag along with what my dad said, it’s so awesome. You have a sense of pride. You want to make everything so perfect when it’s in your district. You don’t want to take any shortcuts.”

Eric’s brother Craig became the third Rasmussen to work at Sweetwater Authority after earning a college degree at San Diego State University. He works as a Watershed Caretaker.

Craig Rasmussen said he applied multiple times over five years before he was hired.

“It’s not like I was a shoe-in,” said Craig. “It gave me time to do some schooling. You just don’t want to let the family name down.”

Craig and Eric’s father is proud of his sons and co-workers.

“To have two boys work for the same company, for me it’s been a blessing,” said Howard Rasmussen. “Being here with my kids I hear how they work; I hear about their attitudes. I get complimented all the time what a great job I’ve done with my kids. Not many people experience that firsthand.”

All three Rasmussens encourage others to consider water industry careers.

“My dad taught me, this is your opportunity, you have to take it,” said Eric Rasmussen.

North County legacy spans three generations

Ed Pedrazzi (far right) in 1996 with brother Jon Sherwood (second from right) and Vallecitos Water District employees Joe Lomeli and Rocky Eltzroth. Photo: Courtesy Ed Pedrazzi family ties

Ed Pedrazzi (far right) in 1996 with brother-in-law Jon Sherwood (second from right) and Vallecitos Water District employees Joe Lomeli and Rocky Eltzroth. Photo: Courtesy Ed Pedrazzi

Family ties span three generations at four different water agencies in North San Diego County.

Ed Pedrazzi works at the Vallecitos Water District as Operations and Maintenance Manager. His niece, Jessica Sherwood, is a Water Resources Assistant at the Vista Irrigation District. Jessica’s father Jon Sherwood was a Water Operation Supervisor for the Vallecitos Water District. Grandfather Amos Sherwood worked at the San Dieguito Water District from 1960 to 1990, and her uncle Terry worked at the Olivenhain Municipal Water District.

Ed Pedrazzi was hired to work in the Construction Department at Vallecitos in 1989. After completing courses at Palomar College, he became certified in Water Distribution and Treatment. Until his recent retirement from teaching, Pedrazzi taught modern water technology courses at Palomar to a new generation of professionals.

Vista Irrigation District Water Resources Office Assistant Jessica Sherwood is a third-generation water industry professional. Photo: Courtesy Jessica Sherwood family ties

Vista Irrigation District Water Resources Office Assistant Jessica Sherwood is a third-generation water industry professional. Photo: Courtesy Jessica Sherwood

Jessica Sherwood saw an opening at the Vista Irrigation District in 2012 for a meter reader and jumped at the chance, working her way up to her current position. She said her entire family has been a positive influence on her water industry career.

“My dad is a very open and honest person and sometimes it’s hard to follow in his footsteps, but I know he’s proud of me,” said Sherwood. “My Uncle Terry is a quiet and modest man but had the same outlook as my dad.

“I think my dad and uncle’s strong work ethics stem from my grandpa. Everything they taught me comes from him. He had both working for him at San Dieguito Water District during the summers when they were still in high school. I just have to say, that I’m very proud of these guys and it’s a pretty cool legacy to be a part of.”

Because they are at different agencies, Pedrazzi and Sherwood don’t cross paths during their work hours, but they sometimes see each other at training meetings.

“He’s only a city away or a phone call,” said Sherwood.

Study shows families influence career choices

Amos Sherwood worked for the San Dieguito Water District from 1960 – 1990 and rose to become superintendent there. Photo: Courtesy Jessica Sherwood

Amos Sherwood worked for the San Dieguito Water District from 1960 – 1990 and rose to become superintendent there. Photo: Courtesy Jessica Sherwood

Eric Rasmussen said family ties help, but family lessons learned and applied make the difference.

“With my dad leading the way, you can do nothing but give thanks to him and my mom for what we’ve been blessed with, and the ethics we possess,” said Eric.

Father Howard adds, “You may not think your kids are listening, but they do.”

(Editor’s note: The Sweetwater Authority, Vista Irrigation District, San Dieguito Water District, Vallecitos Water District and the Olivenhain Municipal Water District are five of the San Diego County Water Authority’s 24 member agencies that deliver water across the metropolitan San Diego region.)

Career-Otay Water District-Faces of the Water Industry

Learn About Water Industry Career Opportunities From the Pros

Looking for a challenging and satisfying career? Current and aspiring professionals can learn about water industry career opportunities through the San Diego County Water Authority’s “Faces of the Water Industry” social media outreach campaign in October. 

The campaign, inspired by ACWA’s California Water Professionals Appreciation Week, highlights the San Diego region’s water and wastewater professionals and the essential work that they do to provide safe and reliable water supplies for 3.3 million people and a $253 billion economy. 

Water Industry Pros Share Their Stories

The Faces of the Water Industry campaign features the stories of 21 water industry professionals through a series of social media posts and videos. Beginning October 1, follow the Water Authority on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram to read inspiring stories from the region’s water and wastewater pros.

Eric Amavisca, Water Distribution Technician 

Eric Amavisca, Water Distribution Technician, City of Escondido

“Growing up near the ocean, water always played an influential part in my life,” said Eric Amavisca, Water Distribution Technician at the City of Escondido. “I always knew I wanted to work with water but wasn’t sure how until I was surfing with a close friend one day. He mentioned a nearby community college offered classes focused on water distribution. I decided to take a leap and try it out. The classes were appealing to me. Therefore I began a career in water distribution. Water is one of our most valuable resources, and I’m happy to protect it for the future. I find gratification in protecting the City’s water infrastructure.”

Laura York, Laboratory Analyst 

Laura York, Laboratory Analyst, Otay Water District

“The most rewarding aspect of my job is that it contributes to society. Water is a vital resource that all life depends on for survival,” said Laura York, Laboratory Analyst at Otay Water District. “As a lab analyst, I monitor water quality and protect public health by ensuring the water meets regulatory requirements and is safe for drinking. Working in the industry also provides lifelong learning opportunities as there are continuous challenges and the accompanying need for innovation and improvement.”

Jorge Pena Veloz, Customer Service Representative I (Field) 

Jorge Pena Veloz, Customer Service Representative I (Field), Sweetwater Authority

“I was inspired to work for a water agency because I knew that the work I would be performing on a daily basis would have an immediate impact on our customers and that the service that we provide is vital to everyday life,” said Jorge Pena Veloz, Customer Service Representative I (Field) at Sweetwater Authority. “In addition, I knew that working for the Authority would not only bring me satisfaction but also help me and my family have a bright future.”

Karla Sanchez, Engineering Technician II 

Karla Sanchez, Engineering Technician II, San Diego County Water Authority

“Working in the water industry is very rewarding,” said Karla Sanchez, Engineering Technician II at the San Diego County Water Authority. “In the water industry I have had the opportunity to see and grow so much of San Diego. The people and the innovation that goes into providing water is fulfilling. Building infrastructure to ensure that the people around me can live, work and play is a passion of mine. I take pride knowing that I help provide water to the country. I look forward to continuingly growing in my career in the water industry.”

Upcoming Water Industry Career Webinars

The water and wastewater industry offers vast opportunities for essential careers in engineering, operations, finance, public affairs, human resources, administration and information technology. 

The Water Authority and California Water Environmental Association (CWEA) is hosting free career webinars for new and current water professionals. 

For job openings, internships and education opportunities across the San Diego region’s water and wastewater industry, go to sandiegowaterworks.org.

(Editor’s note: The Otay Water District, Sweetwater Authority, and the City of Escondido, are three of the San Diego County Water Authority’s 24 member agencies that deliver water across the metropolitan San Diego region.)

Gerald Moore-SkillBridge Program-Water Jobs

Water Authority Taps SkillBridge Program for Talented Veterans

The San Diego County Water Authority is the first public agency in California to participate in the Department of Defense SkillBridge Program, which connects transitioning military service members to career-track job training opportunities. The regional initiative is off to a fast start with two SkillBridge interns starting their civilian careers at the Water Authority this summer.

The Water Authority joined the federal program in June 2020, as part of an effort by the Water Authority and its 24 member agencies to meet the growing need for skilled water industry workers.

‘Silver tsunami’ of retirements in water industry

The opportunities for both transitioning servicemembers and local water agencies are significant. More than 30,000 service members separate from the military each year in California, and more than half are transitioning out of active duty in the San Diego region. Roughly half of the current water industry workforce in the San Diego region will be eligible to retire in the next 15 years – and approximately 1,400 water and wastewater industry jobs are expected to open in the region in the next five years.

SkillBridge Program interns served in Navy

The Water Authority’s Operations & Maintenance Department recently welcomed two SkillBridge interns, Gerald Moore and Jamaal Benjamin, who each bring more than 15 years of experience in the Navy.

“We have seen the skills and aptitudes they learned in the military directly transfer to their work at the Water Authority,” said Water Authority Board Chair Gary Croucher. “At a time when a wave of retirements is impacting the water industry, the SkillBridge Program is an important way to meet our need for skilled workers.”

The Water Authority is benefitting from Moore’s background in operating and maintaining computer systems.

“The Water Authority is all about teamwork and service, and they’ve welcomed me to their team with open arms,” said Moore. “This is a new phase of my career and life. I’m excited to find out where this journey will take me.”

SkillBridge Program-Jamaal Benjamin-Military Veterans-Water Industry Jobs

“Having an opportunity to tap my military training and background in a civilian context is an ideal way to increase my career options in the water and wastewater industry,” said Jamaal Benjamin. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

Benjamin is using his knowledge and experience working with complex electrical, electromechanical, and electrohydraulic systems to help maintain and repair critical water facilities.

“Having an opportunity to tap my military training and background in a civilian context is an ideal way to increase my career options in the water and wastewater industry,” said Benjamin.

Helping military veterans find jobs

A regional work group is implementing strategies to increase skilled workers for the water industry, with a focus on helping military veterans find jobs. Many of the Water Authority’s member agencies have also expressed interest in the SkillBridge Program.

“This is a unique opportunity to access a huge talent pool that can help us ensure the San Diego region will have the workforce to fill mission critical positions in the water industry,” said Christopher McKinney, chair of the regional work group and the director of utilities/assistant city manager for the City of Escondido.

Other regional efforts to help military veterans include state legislation co-sponsored by the Water Authority and Otay Water District that, when implemented, would provide a future avenue for veterans to receive credit for their military education and experience when applying for civilian water and wastewater system operator certifications in California.

Water industry job website

In addition, the San Diego County Water Authority maintains SanDiegoWaterWorks.org to provide a comprehensive and up-to-date list of regional water and wastewater industry job openings in one location, along with other information for veterans about career paths and internships.

SkillBridge Program

The Department of Defense created the SkillBridge Program in 2011 to give service members an opportunity to gain real-world training and work experience during their last 180 days of active service by interning at a civilian employer. The cost to partnering employers is minimal; employers pay no wages or benefits as service members continue to receive active duty pay and benefits during their internship.

For more information about regional job opportunities and training programs in the region’s water and wastewater industry go to: www.sandiegowaterworks.org/

Vallecitos Water District-water industry careers-veterans-jobs

Vallecitos Employee Encourages Veterans to Work in Water Industry

Vallecitos Water District Senior Pump and Motor Technician Dale Austin is a strong advocate and one-person recruiting program, encouraging military veterans to consider water and wastewater industry careers. As an eighth-generation military veteran with 20 years of service, he successfully transitioned to his current profession and wants to help others do the same.

“Every job in the military can be transferred into a water agency,” said Austin. “I’m a proud veteran. I will support veterans 110% any way I can, any time of the day.

“One of the things I can tell a veteran preparing for a job or seeking a job within this field is be prepared. Prepare yourself. You’re always training for a deployment or another duty assignment. This job is no different.”

Half of all water and wastewater industry employees are expected to retire in the next 15 years. Many of those workers hold essential positions. The value of these essential workers became especially clear due to the pandemic.

Retirement wave creates career opportunities for veterans

In just the next five years, about 1,400 water and wastewater industry jobs are expected to open across the San Diego region. In addition to engineers and plant operators, the industry relies on technicians, accountants, electricians, mechanics, information technology specialists, and many other occupations.

Austin encourages veterans to explore their options through opportunities available for education and training, such as the certificate and degree programs at Cuyamaca College and Palomar College.

“Seek out volunteer programs. Seek out tours. Call a water agency. There are programs there. Take full advantage of those,” said Austin. “Go to job fairs. Read job postings, even if you don’t know what kind of job you may qualify for.”

Water and wastewater industry jobs allow veterans to continue serving their community by providing safe, sanitary water and ensuring public health and safety. Careers are stable with good salaries and benefits. Water and wastewater professionals serve in communities and agencies of all sizes.

“I want to do the best for the ratepayers. I really take pride in that.  I think the military instilled that in me. It’s a team environment here. It’s like a military coalition. I love working with my team. I believe the military helped me achieve that,” said Austin.

Vets receive credit for military experience and education

Skills acquired from military service translate well to water and wastewater industry jobs. Photo: Vallecitos Water District Encourages Veterans

Skills acquired from military service translate well to water and wastewater industry jobs. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

San Diego area veterans can learn about career opportunities at a dedicated web portal for veterans, SanDiegoWaterWorks.org.  New laws in California supported by the Water Authority and its 24 member agencies offer credit for military education and experience when applying for industry jobs.

Austin especially encourages women veterans to consider water industry careers. “I work with great women leaders here [Vallecitos Water District]. Your career choices are endless. You’re focused on doing well. As a veteran, you have a hand up,” said Austin.

Austin said his 11 years working at the Vallecitos Water District feels like working in a military environment in positive ways.

“We take care of each other. Everyone helps everyone else. I love the sense of accomplishment and the sense of satisfaction of doing a job well,” said Austin. “A lot of our jobs are unrecognized by the public. You turn your tap on, you flush your toilet. Everything works. I get a sense of satisfaction with my group knowing we did a job well.”

(Editor’s note: The Vallecitos Water District is one of the San Diego County Water Authority’s 24 member agencies that deliver water across the metropolitan San Diego region.)

Vallecitos Water District waterwater technicians Matt Wiess and Chris Deering at the Meadowlark Water Reclamation Facility. Photo: Vallecitos Water District employees

Water and Wastewater Scholarship Opportunities Available at National University

The new Waterworks Management Concentration in the Bachelor of Public Administration, offered by National University in partnership with Cuyamaca College, begins its second cohort of courses in August. Two new scholarship opportunities are now available to help prospective students overcome financial barriers and reach new career goals.

Developed in collaboration with regional employers, and driven by the rapidly growing demands for skilled career professionals in the water and wastewater industry, the Bachelor of Public Administration degree with a concentration in Waterworks Management, or BPA degree, allows graduates of the Cuyamaca College Center for Water Studies to transfer directly into National University bachelor’s program after earning their associate’s degree. Transfer scholarships are also available to graduates of other California community colleges.

Scholarship opportunities include:

  • The Opportunity Scholarship, which extends financial assistance to adult learned who are Pell Grant recipients
  • The Fast Track Scholarship, a merit-based award designed to help students complete their degree program by offering a free class for every three classes completed within six months, up to a 25% savings in tuition fees
  • The ADT Scholarship for CA CC Transfer Students

Dr. Joseph Allen, Director of Community College Pathways at National University, holds free live information webinars for prospective students every other Thursday. The next one is scheduled at 5 p.m. on May 20. Registration is free and open to anyone interested in the program. All courses in the program are taught online.

“While you are working from home, you now have digital access to a waterworks management education that can transform your career trajectory,” said Dr. Allen.

Demand for skilled professionals

Water and wastewater professionals like the Olivenhain Municipal Water District 4S Ranch Wastewater Treatment plant employees are moving toward retirement with not enough replacements available. Photo: Olivenhain Municipal Water District

Water and wastewater professionals like the Olivenhain Municipal Water District 4S Ranch Wastewater Treatment plant employees are moving toward retirement with not enough replacements available. Photo: Olivenhain Municipal Water District

The water and wastewater industry’s rapidly growing demand for highly skilled professionals shows no signs of slowing in the coming years. Impending retirements will create a need to fill 12,000 to 20,000 water and wastewater jobs throughout California in the near future. Many of the positions require a bachelor’s degree such as the National University BPA degree.

The degree collaboration allows students to complete both an associate’s and a bachelor’s degree while reducing the time and cost. Student support services at both institutions help foster a seamless process for students to transfer from Cuyamaca College to National University.

The insight and recommendations of regional employers coordinated by the Center for Water Studies at Cuyamaca College and the San Diego County Water Authority, make the academic pathway possible.

Positive student reviews

The National University Bachelor of Public Administration degree program is taught in a convenient online format. Photo: Vanessa Garcia

The National University Bachelor of Public Administration degree program is taught in a convenient online format. Photo: Vanessa Garcia

Students from the first group completing the four-course concentration give the program positive feedback.

“I had a great experience in Waterworks Management in California,” said Clinton Swanger. “The class enlightened me to fact that there are different ways to view this subject. I feel as if I have a better understanding of how water management works and what to expect in the future.”

Graduates will be able to address the issues and challenges facing water and wastewater agencies at the state, regional, and local levels, including governing requirements and regulatory compliance while employing water management best practices.

Degree program well suited for military veterans  

Administrators plan to eventually offer onsite and hybrid courses involving the Cuyamaca College Center for Water Studies field operations skills yard for hands-on experience. Photo: Courtesy GCCCD

Administrators plan to eventually offer onsite and hybrid courses involving the Cuyamaca College Center for Water Studies field operations skills yard for hands-on experience. Photo: Courtesy GCCCD

National University offers all BPA courses online. Administrators plan to eventually offer onsite and hybrid courses involving the Cuyamaca College Center for Water Studies field operations skills yard for hands-on experience.

Students earning the Bachelor of Public Administration degree will complete National University’s four-course concentration of upper-division courses studying:

  • Water and waterworks management in CA
  • California Waterworks Law & Compliance,
  • Human Resources & Labor Relations
  • Leadership in Water Management

Students can begin the BPA program at any time.

As a veteran-founded, private nonprofit institution, National University is dedicated to serving service members, veterans, and their families. This new BPA waterworks concentration is particularly well suited for veterans using their GI benefits to further their education. Veterans are eligible to apply their military experience and education toward certifications in the water industry.

The 4th Women In Water Symposium discussed the career landscape for women due to the coronavirus pandemic. Photo: Screen Capture, Women in Water Symposium

Women In Water Symposium Flows With The Change

This year’s Women in Water Symposium conference theme “Flow With The Change” is fitting. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the 2021 event is online with a new virtual format. The online format generated just as much enthusiasm from participants as prior in-person meetings. And, the virtual conference also meant people from throughout the United States could Zoom in, too.

A record 230 registrants signed up to attend live sessions covering a variety of career development topics.

Three specific career level tracks are offered to address needs at each level: entry-level for those new to water careers; mid-career for those transitioning and advancing within the industry; and upper level for senior professionals looking to leave a legacy.

Symposium highlights career opportunities

The symposium features three weekly half-day virtual formats.

Between 80 and 90 people attended the first four sessions on March 4. Topics included building a sustainable career in the water and wastewater industry; a panel discussion on public and private water industry career choices; and dealing with change and uncertainty.

Presenter flows with the change in format

“I actually participated in this symposium three years ago,” said Debbie Kaye, one of the conference presenters. “It was really fun, and it was just great energy in the room, so I’m trying to capture that energy through the little boxes on the screen,” said Kaye, president and CEO of V&A Consulting Engineers.

This is the fourth year of the conference, which started with a welcoming message from Cuyamaca College President Dr. Julianna Barnes. The college hosted the three previous symposiums.

“There’s just so many opportunities,” said Kaye. “The water industry is so welcoming. I think the thing that binds us together, we’re serving a higher purpose. We’re all supporting our families doing what we’re doing, but we’re serving a higher purpose protecting public health and protecting the environment.”

San Diego County Water Authority manager encourages women professionals

Gretchen Paniol of the Water Authority delivered a presentation on dealing with change. Photo: Screen Capture, Women In Water Symposium

Gretchen Spaniol with the San Diego County Water Authority delivered a presentation on dealing with change. She used a photo of herself at age 12 from a going-away party. “As a kid, I moved every two years, so I thought I was good at change, now it’s much harder,” Spaniol said in her presentation.  Photo: screen capture/Women In Water Symposium

San Diego County Water Authority Human Resources Special Projects Manager Gretchen Spaniol noted the pandemic year has disproportionately affected women in the workplace. “That was me at my going away party. I moved every two years as a kid, so I thought I was good at change. Now it’s harder.

“In December 2020, the U.S. economy lost 140,000 jobs, and all of those were held by women,” said Spaniol. “It’s being called the female recession, or the ‘she-cession.’ Female unemployment reached double digits for the first time since 1948.”

Flow with the change in work life

Spaniol says changes such as working from home bring on stress, and stress can bleed into all aspects of work life. She encouraged attendees to network and support each other.

“Women in water, this is a great opportunity for additional networking,” said Spaniol. “I can guarantee you someone has been through what you’ve been going through, or has been dealing with something similar. It’s great to talk to others to really get that life experience. This is a great opportunity inside and outside your agency. We have such a great industry in San Diego County.”

She also praised the value of mentorships for women in the water industry.

Upcoming sessions include discussions on the evolution of the work environment due to COVID-19, negotiation skills, receiving feedback, and the use of social media.

Registration is still open for upcoming sessions. For additional information, contact Vanessa Murrell, Cuyamaca College, Center for Water Studies:

The conference was organized by a volunteer group, the “Women in Water Committee,” chaired by Galit Ryan, Firm Principal at Peterson Structural Engineers in San Diego.

Scholarship applicationsvfor 2022 are now available. Water industry education

Scholarship Applications Open for Aspiring Water Pros 

If you’re a student considering college studies leading to a career in the water and wastewater industry, several California water associations and San Diego regional member water agencies offer college scholarships.

Scholarships are available for community college, college, and graduate-level programs. Here are a few of the funding opportunities for study in the 2021-2022 academic school year.

Statewide water scholarships

Approximately 1,400 water and waster industry jobs will become available in San Diego County in the next five years. Photo: Water Authority scholarship application

Approximately 1,400 water and waster industry jobs will become available in San Diego County in the next five years. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

The Water Environment Federation’s Canham Graduate Studies scholarship provides $25,000 for a post-baccalaureate student in the water environment field. The scholarship is for education-related expenses such as room and board, tuition, and books. The scholarship may not be used to cover stipends or wages.

The applicant must be a WEF member, complete an online application, and be enrolled in a graduate program. Recipients must commit to working in the water industry for two years following graduation.

Deadline: March 1, 2021. WEF Scholarship Application Link

The California Water Environment Association is offering $30,000 in scholarships this year to students pursuing a career in the clean water profession. The deadline to apply for the CWEA Kirt Brooks Scholarship program is Feb. 15.

The Association of California Water Agencies offers a $3,500 scholarship to qualified applicants attending a University of California or California State University school pursuing an undergraduate degree in a water-resources related field such as engineering, agriculture, environmental studies, or public administration. The applicant must be a junior or senior attending full-time during the 2021-2022 school year.  Criteria include scholastic achievement and motivation to the vocation of water-resources management.

Deadline: March 1, 2021. ACWA UC and CSU Scholarships Application Link

The California-Nevada section of the American Water Works Association awards more than $20,000 in scholarships supporting students and professionals pursuing careers in a drinking water-related field. Two $5,000 graduate scholarships and four $2,500 undergraduate scholarships are available. Two additional $1,000 scholarships fund training as a drinking water treatment/distribution operator in trade or community college programs.

Suitable candidates include environmental and civil engineers; water, wastewater, and recycling treatment plant operators; distribution system operators; chemists; laboratory technicians; biologists, ecologists, and environmental scientists; and others whose roles support safe and reliable drinking water.

Deadline: March 15, 2021 AWWA Scholarship Application Link

 

Eight local scholarships are available from two member water agencies for students in the North County and East County. Photo: Water Authority

Up to eight local scholarships are available from two member water agencies for students in the North County and East County. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

San Diego regional water scholarships

The Helix Water District offers two $1,000 scholarships to graduating high school seniors who will begin their university studies next fall. Applications are due April 1 for the Dr. Lillian M. Childs Scholarship and the Robert D. Friedgen Scholarship, which provide help with freshman year expenses. The scholarship committee reviews each applicant’s grades, extracurricular activities, volunteer and work experience, academic and career goals, and financial need.

High school seniors must graduate in Spring 2021 and attend a four-year college or university next fall. Applicants must live in Helix’s service area, including the cities of Lemon Grove, La Mesa, and El Cajon, the community of Spring Valley, and unincorporated areas of the county.

Deadline: April 1, 2021. Helix Water District High School Students Scholarship Application Link

The Vista Irrigation District offers up to six scholarships to high school students living or attending school within the district. Awards range from $1,000 to $3,000. The purpose of the scholarship program is to encourage students to learn more about water-related issues impacting their community. Students who compete for a scholarship must complete an essay and provide a personal statement related to their background and/or goals. Selection criteria also include community involvement or volunteer service and letters of recommendation from high school faculty.

Deadline: April 5, 2021. Vista Irrigation District High School Students Scholarship Application Link.

The San Diego County Water Authority and its 24 member agencies have created a regional workforce development task force to address the ‘Silver Tsunami’ of experienced employees reaching retirement age. With approximately 1,400 water and wastewater jobs expected to open up across San Diego County in the next five years due to retirements, water industry careers offer promising lifelong professional opportunities. For more information, visit sandiegowaterworks.org

City of Escondido Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator Carrie Selby is among a growing number of women working in water and wastewater industry careers. Photo: City of Escondido

Women in Water Symposium

The fourth annual Women in Water Symposium in March will be online this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Previously hosted at Cuyamaca College, symposium sessions will be each Thursday starting March 2. This year’s conference theme is “Flow With The Change.”

Three specific career level tracks are offered to address needs at each level: entry-level for those new to water careers; mid-career for those transitioning and advancing within the industry; and upper level, for senior professionals looking to leave a legacy.

Session topics include negotiation skills; diversity, equity, and inclusion; dealing with change; the impact of COVID-19; and building a sustainable career. Program elements for all tracks are designed to create a larger community of people with the interest and aptitude to take on what were previously considered non-traditional careers.

The symposium is an opportunity for students, water industry professionals, and people exploring careers in the water and wastewater industry, to make connections.

“The Women in Water Symposium made it possible for me, as a young graduate student, to meet experienced, female engineers at any moment, from breakfast to sessions and everything in between,” said Alma Rocha, a San Diego State University graduate student studying environmental engineering.

“I got to meet so many amazing people and help them out with referrals to jobs and events that might help their career, ” said Alec Mackie with the California Water Environmental Association. “A very rewarding event.”

Vanessa Murrell, Foundation for Grossmont and Cuyamaca Colleges grant manager, said the conference is open to anyone, and this year is not limited by location by being held in a virtual environment.

Nurturing the next generation of water professionals

Water Authority General Manager Sandra Kerl is a longtime supporter and speaker at the Women in Water Symposium series at Cuyamaca College. Photo: Cuyamaca College

Water Authority General Manager Sandra Kerl is a longtime supporter and speaker at the Women in Water Symposium series sponsored by Cuyamaca College. This year’s symposium will take place online. Photo: Cuyamaca College

The Water Authority and its 24 member agencies have created a regional workforce development task force to address the “Silver Tsunami” of experienced employees reaching retirement age. The task force reports approximately 4,500 water and wastewater positions in the San Diego region. More than 1,400 of those workers are expected to reach retirement age by 2024. Water and wastewater treatment plant operators in California earn an annual average wage of more than $72,000, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Registration is $25 and free to students. Attendees only need to register once for all symposium sessions. Participants can attend any session from all three tracks. Register here.