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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.

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.”

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.

Opinion: The Greatest Water Transfer in History

Our country is currently in the midst of the greatest transfer of wealth in the history of mankind – not in 10 or 20 years – but today. Much has been written about the Silver Tsunami, roughly defined as the wave of water and wastewater operator retirements across the country. And yet, while every industry conference (virtual or not) reminds us about the latest operator to hang up his or her hat, relatively little attention has been paid to the challenges we face as similar retirement trends plague private businesses servicing the industry across the country.

Primary-Tyrese Powell-Slotterbeck-San Diego Water Works-Water Jobs

San Diego Water Works Website Offers One-Stop Shop for Water Industry Jobs 

The San Diego County Water Authority and its 24 member agencies have launched a new website – SanDiegoWaterWorks.org – that provides the first comprehensive posting of regional water and wastewater industry job openings in one location.

As the San Diego economy begins recovering from recession, the site features expanded job opportunities and regularly updated information about internships and training opportunities – a one-stop-shop for anyone interested in a new career or a new role in the water industry.

San Diego Water Works was created to help meet the growing need for skilled water industry workers at a time when retirements are reducing the workforce. The site is the result of a regional water industry task force convened to address the “silver tsunami” of Baby Boomers.

“We want to fill the pipeline with new generations of talent,” said Water Authority General Manager Sandra L. Kerl. “This is an industry that can really benefit from people with a diversity of backgrounds and educational experiences.”

Website created to fill openings created by wave of water industry retirements

While some water agencies have reduced hiring during the pandemic, roughly half of the current water industry workforce in the San Diego region will be eligible to retire in the next 15 years and many of those workers are in essential positions. In just the next five years, about 1,400 water and wastewater industry jobs are expected to open across the region. In addition to engineers and plant operators, the industry relies on technicians, accountants, electricians, mechanics, information technology specialists and many other occupations.

“The water industry offers careers that are not only personally and professional rewarding but also are vital for our region,” said Christopher McKinney, the City of Escondido’s Director of Utilities, and chair of the regional task force. “This is a chance to really make a difference in our community.”

San Diego Water Works website-water jobs-water industry

The San Diego Water Works website was created to help meet the growing need for skilled water industry workers at a time when retirements are reducing the workforce.

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

The new website aligns with the priorities of water agencies in San Diego County to help military veterans find jobs in the water and wastewater industry. State legislation co-sponsored by the San Diego County Water Authority and the Otay Water District was signed into law in 2019, making it possible for veterans to receive credit for their military education and experience when applying for civilian water and wastewater system operator certifications in California.

“More than 15,000 military personnel transition from active duty each year in San Diego County, and many have the skills and experience that match the needs of regional water industry employers,” said Jose Martinez, Otay Water District general manager, U.S. Navy veteran and a member of the regional workforce development task force. “As a veteran, I understand the importance of a website like this; it is a great starting point for veterans to find jobs and training programs as well as to discover what resources are available in the industry.”

AB 1588 - ACWA - WNN

New California Law Creates Pathway to Water Industry Jobs for Military Veterans

Legislation co-sponsored by the San Diego County Water Authority and the Otay Water District is intended to make it easier for military veterans to launch careers in the water industry.

After Lt. Jose Martinez retired from the U.S. Navy in 2007, he went from serving his country underwater to serving reliable, high quality water to a community. 

His experience aboard a nuclear submarine and on the management staff of Otay Water District shares a few commonalities. Both involve highly complex systems, which often operate away of the public eye, either underwater or underground. 

“People turn on the tap and out comes water,” said Martinez, General Manager for ACWA-member Otay Water District. “It seems rather simple, but it’s really complex. It’s fascinating to me.”

Water industry jobs for military vets

Martinez’s experience as a naval nuclear engineer focused on submarines’ nuclear and non-nuclear systems, including water treatment. This gave him an advantage to transition to a civilian career in water.

A bill and new law, signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in October 2019, sets the stage for making it much easier for military veterans to transition into the water industry. AB 1588, initiated by Martinez and Otay, intends to update the current water and wastewater certification system by giving military veterans credit for their experience and education that is applicable to the water industry. Essentially, veterans would not have to start at the bottom, but instead advance to testing that matches their level of experience. That way, veterans can enter the water workforce at a level that meets their paygrade.

‘Silver tsunami’ of retiring baby boomers creates opportunities

AB 1588 was introduced by Assemblymembers Todd Gloria (D-San Diego) and Adam Gray (D-Merced), and co-authored by several state legislators, including Assemblymember Tasha Boerner Horvath (D-Oceanside). The San Diego County Water Authority and Otay cosponsored the bill, with the goal of increasing the number of veterans entering the water industry to replace retiring baby boomers.

To address this challenge, the Water Authority and its 24 member agencies created a regional workforce development task force to address the oncoming ‘Silver Tsunami’ of retirees. The San Diego region alone employs approximately 4,500 water and wastewater workers, with more than 1,400 of those workers expected to reach retirement age by 2024, according to the Water Authority. Statewide, there are approximately 6,000 active certified wastewater treatment plant operators, and approximately 35,000 drinking water treatment and distribution operators. 

Jobs within the water industry often reflect military experience, and not necessarily ones directly related to water and wastewater treatment on a base or aboard a ship. Don Jones, with the Center for Water Studies at El Cajon’s Cuyamaca College, compared experience within a Combat Information Center on a warship to operating a SCADA system at a water facility, pointing out that experienced SCADA operators can be hard to find.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re opening a pump or firing a missile, the process is very similar, it’s the mechanical and electronic interface that matters. You’re electronically activating a piece of mechanical equipment,” Jones said. 

‘It’s all about serving people’

The water industry can also offer veterans a few other advantages. Shannon Cotulla served in the U.S. Army as a combat engineer between 1987 and 1992. After leaving the service, he contemplated aviation engineering, but a desire to work outdoors in civil engineering led him to the water industry. Today, Cotulla is Assistant General Manager at the South Tahoe Public Utility District and former member of ACWA’s Board of Directors. 

“The work is really meaningful, it’s all about serving people and keeping our communities safe,” Cotulla said. “There’s also security in knowing that your organization has rules and standards that you can look up to and isn’t subject to the whims that you sometimes find in the private sector.”

Otay’s Martinez said that it could take a few years for the state to make the changes called for in AB 1588. Nevertheless, the process is underway and includes having a veteran with water industry experience serve on a regulatory advisory board along with water industry members. In the meantime, news about the bill’s potential for veterans is raising awareness among veterans about why careers in the water industry represent a great opportunity.

“We really want to open up this talent pool,” Martinez said. “Veterans are the right candidates to fill these jobs because of the skilled work they’ve already demonstrated in their careers and their time in the military.”

Workforce Diversity Focus of ‘Women in Water’ Conference

Career opportunities for women in the water and wastewater industry at every level are the focus of the third annual Women in Water Symposium January 16 at Cuyamaca College.

Vanessa Murrell, grant manager for the Center for Water Studies at Cuyamaca College, said the conference’s goal in its third year is to create a community of people with the interest and aptitude to take on what were previously considered non-traditional careers.

Otay Water District Reclamation Plant Operator Tyrese Powell is among the women pursuing career opportunities in the water and wastewater industry. Photo: Water Authority

Workforce Diversity Focus of ‘Women in Water’ Conference

Career opportunities for women in the water and wastewater industry at every level are the focus of the third annual Women in Water Symposium January 16 at Cuyamaca College.

Vanessa Murrell, grant manager for the Center for Water Studies at Cuyamaca College, said the conference’s goal in its third year is to create a community of people with the interest and aptitude to take on what were previously considered non-traditional careers.

“It’s a matter of recruiting great talent that transcends gender and ethnicity,” said Murrell. “It’s making sure the water workforce represents the community it serves.”

The Women in Water Syposium's goal in its third year is to create a community of people with the interest and aptitude to take on what were previously considered non-traditional careers. Photo: Cuyamaca College

The Women in Water Symposium’s goal is to create a community of people with the interest and aptitude to take on what were previously considered non-traditional careers. Photo: Cuyamaca College

For the first time, the Women in Water Symposium will have three tracks: sessions for those interested in starting their career in water; those seeking career advancement; and established professionals interested in forming professional alliances and promoting workforce diversity.

“We all have a vested interest in water,” said Murrell. “We cannot function without it. It’s vital for us to take part in maintaining this crucial resource.”

“It is good for anyone to attend, regardless of gender,” she said. “There is a lot you can learn from being in the room with the individuals and taking it all in. The energy has been amazing at the last conferences. This conference promotes the best of the industry.”

Passing the baton to the next generation of water workforce professionals

Water and wastewater industry employers including the Water Authority will participate in the Women in Water Symposium at Cuyamaca College on January 16. Photo: Cuyamaca College

Water and wastewater industry employers including the San Diego County Water Authority will participate in the Women in Water Symposium at Cuyamaca College on January 16. Photo: Cuyamaca College

The San Diego County Water Authority will be among the water industry employers offering career information at the conference.

The Water Authority and its 24 member agencies created a regional workforce development task force to address the ‘Silver Tsunami’ of employees reaching retirement age.

“There are approximately 4,500 water and wastewater positions in the San Diego region and more than 1,400 of those workers are expected to reach retirement age by 2024,” said Gretchen Spaniol, acting special projects manager with the San Diego County Water Authority. “Those retirements provide an opportunity to diversify the water industry workforce, and the Women in Water conference is a great starting place to explore careers in water.”

The series of workshops between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. wraps up with a tour of the Water Conversation Garden.

Lunch, refreshments, and parking are included in the $35 registration fee. Registration is free for students. For more information about the symposium and Cuyamaca College’s Center for Water Studies, go to centerforwaterstudies.org.

Olivenhain Municipal Water District Logo

OMWD Recognized as One of San Diego’s Top Workplaces

Encinitas, CA — Olivenhain Municipal Water District has been named one of San Diego’s “Top Workplaces” by the San Diego Union-Tribune. The recognition is provided to those San Diego County employers best demonstrating workplace excellence based on anonymous surveys completed by employees.

tate legislators, water industry leaders, veteran advocates and business and community organizations gathered at the Veterans Museum in Balboa Park Oct. 16 to celebrate Gov. Gavin Newsom’s signing of AB 1588.

New California Law Creates Path to Water Industry Jobs for Vets

State legislation co-sponsored by the San Diego County Water Authority and the Otay Water District has been signed into law, making it possible for veterans to receive credit for their military education and experience when applying for civilian water and wastewater system operator certifications in California.

State legislators, water industry leaders, veteran advocates and business and community organizations gathered at the Veterans Museum in Balboa Park today to celebrate Gov. Gavin Newsom’s signing of Assembly Bill 1588.

The bill was introduced in the state legislature by Assemblymembers Todd Gloria (San Diego) and Adam Gray (Merced), and co-authored by several state legislators, including Assemblymember Tasha Boerner Horvath (Oceanside).

The Water Authority and the Otay Water District co-sponsored the bill to increase the number of military veterans entering the civilian water and wastewater industry at a time when many Baby Boomers are retiring.

‘Silver Tsunami’ of retirements in water industry

“The new law helps our communities two ways – by lowering employment barriers for our veterans and sustaining our vital water and wastewater services for the next generation,” said Water Authority Board Secretary Christy Guerin. “This was a victory for San Diego and the whole state – a successful, bipartisan effort that will help maintain our economy and quality of life.”

The Water Authority and its 24 member agencies have created a regional workforce development task force to address the “Silver Tsunami” of retirees. The task force reported that there are approximately 4,500 water and wastewater positions in the San Diego region – and more than 1,400 of those workers are expected to reach retirement age by 2024. Statewide, there are approximately 6,000 active certified wastewater treatment plant operators and approximately 35,000 drinking water treatment and distribution operators.

Several states help veterans navigate the civilian water system operator certification process and allow veterans to apply equivalency standards to credit military experiences toward state or industry certifications in water and wastewater treatment and distribution. However, no similar approach existed in California.

AB 1588 Creates Path For Water Industry Jobs For Military Veterans

State legislation introduced by San Diego Assemblymember Todd Gloria (far right) and Merced Assemblymember Adam Gray creates a path to water and wastewater industry jobs for military veterans. AB 1588, signed into law by Gov. Newsom, was co-sponsored by the San Diego County Water Authority and the Otay Water District. (L-to-R in photo: Mark Balmert, Executive Director, SDMAC, Jose Martinez, Assistant Chief Water Operations, Otay Water District, Christy Guerin, Board Secretary, San Diego County Water Authority, and Assemblymember Gloria). Photo: Water Authority

Creating bridges to water industry jobs

“What we are missing, and what this bill addresses, is a pathway in which we honor the experience of our veterans and allow that experience to qualify them for a career path in our civilian water systems,” said Assemblymember Todd Gloria. “Thanks to Governor Newsom, that pathway now exists. California will now properly credit the service of our veterans and enable them to secure good-paying jobs here in our water system. In this time – when the importance of clean water and good paying jobs is undeniable – let’s create bridges not barriers.”

AB 1588 provides a pathway for military veterans to apply their advanced skills and experience toward state and industry-supplied certifications in the water and wastewater treatment and distribution operator fields. Additionally, it ensures that advanced water treatment operators and distribution system operators of potable reuse and recycled water facilities have a career advancement path as certified water and/or wastewater treatment plant operators.

“San Diego County is home to more than 240,000 veterans with skills that benefit our region in numerous ways,” said Assemblymember Tasha Boerner Horvath of Encinitas, a co-author of the bill. “With this legislation, we are building stronger communities that can remain home to servicemembers after they take off the uniform and transition into civilian life.”

Veterans continue public service in water industry

Assistant Chief of Water Operations at the Otay Water District Jose Martinez is a veteran who initiated the idea of the bill and has thrived in the civilian water industry. “As someone who had the pleasure to serve alongside the members of the military responsible for the safe and reliable operation of water and wastewater systems, I observed firsthand their education, experience and dedication,” he said.

“Now, as a water manager responsible for providing safe and reliable water and wastewater services to the public, I championed this bill to provide a path for veterans to receive the certification credit they have earned after years of service. This will ensure that the water sector continues to recruit from the biggest and best talent pools to provide the highest level of service to everyone.”