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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.)

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.

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.

Kimberly Thorner-San Diego County Water Authority Board of Directors-Olivenhain MWD

Welcome to the Board: Kimberly Thorner, Olivenhain Municipal Water District

Editor’s Note: This feature highlights new members of the San Diego County Water Authority’s 36-member Board of Directors. Each of the Water Authority’s 24 member agencies appoints at least one representative to the Board, which sets policy for the Water Authority.

Welcome to the Board: Kimberly Thorner, Olivenhain Municipal Water District

Who: Kimberly Thorner was seated on the Board of Directors on January 6, 2021, representing the Olivenhain Municipal Water District. Director Thorner serves on the Administrative and Finance, Audit and Engineering and Operations committees for the Water Authority. She was formerly a member of the Fiscal Sustainability Task Force.

Background/Education: Thorner earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Colorado (Boulder) and a juris doctor from Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego. She began her tenure with OMWD in October 1996 and was unanimously selected by the Board of Directors to become OMWD’s fourth general manager beginning January 1, 2007.

Water Industry Affiliations:
Chair of the San Diego Local Agency Formation Commission Special Districts Advisory Committee; San Diego LAFCO Advisory Committee on Rainbow-Fallbrook Reorganization; San Diego LAFCO Subcommittee on the Update to Agricultural and Open Space Lands Policy, and the San Diego LAFCO Subcommittee on GSA’s.

San Diego Integrated Regional Water Management Regional Advisory Committee

WateReuse California (WRCA) Board of Trustees (currently Secretary of the WRCA Board)

Association of California Water Agencies Federal Affairs Committee

North San Diego Water Reuse Coalition

David C. McCollom Water Treatment Plant, Prior Project Manager

Q & A

Q: How did you get interested in water issues?

A: Water is my life. I am quickly approaching my 25th year in the water industry. I started locally, working on treatment plant projects, dams, outreach and conservation. As my tenure in the industry expanded, so did my participation at an expanded level – being involved in statewide and federal water issues, committees and boards. I’ve never had a boring day in the water industry!

Q: What are your priorities or interests as a Board member?

A: My first priorities are the basics – safe, reliable, and affordable water for the San Diego region. None of the member agencies can be successful in providing safe, reliable, and affordable water if SDCWA is not successful. I am looking forward to participating in the continued success of SDCWA. My second priorities are the essentials – transparency, openness and collaboration. Working together openly and honestly in order to move forward for the advantage of the region is important.

Q: Besides maintaining safe and reliable water supplies, what do you see as the top three issues facing the San Diego region?

A: After Safe and Reliable supplies, I would say: Affordability. Dwindling Demand. Maintaining Current Infrastructure.

Q: What do you like to do when you are not working?

A: I’m always working, unless I am off the grid summiting a mountain or spending time with my two daughters. I guide friends up Mt. Whitney and Rim2Rim of the Grand Canyon every year. Someone has to check the snowpack up there in the Sierra and the flow of the Colorado River in the canyon!

The Water Authority’s Board of Directors typically meets on the fourth Thursday of each month. The Board invites the public to attend its monthly meetings and to comment on agenda items or other matters before the Board. For meeting times, agendas and documents, go to www.sdcwa.org/board-directors.

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.

 

Eric Heidemann-Welcome-Board-City of Poway

Welcome to the Board: Eric Heidemann, City of Poway

Editor’s Note: This feature highlights new members of the San Diego County Water Authority’s 36-member Board of Directors. Each of the Water Authority’s 24 member agencies appoints at least one representative to the Board, which sets policy for the Water Authority.

Welcome to the Board: Eric Heidemann, City of Poway

Who: Eric Heidemann was seated on the Board of Directors on May 8, 2020, representing the City of Poway. Director Heidemann serves on the Imported Water and Engineering and Operations committees for the Water Authority.

Background/Education: University of Arizona, B.S. Business and M.S. Urban Planning

Water Industry Affiliations: 

City of Poway, Public Works Director

Metro Wastewater Commission JPA

American Water Works Association (AWWA)

American Public Works Association (APWA)

League of Californian Cities

Q & A

Q: How did you get interested in water issues?

A: I was born in California, raised in Arizona, and after graduating college – worked as a planner in Colorado.  I’ve spent my entire life in the Southwest. As a kid from Tucson, I lived through decade-long droughts and watched the Central Arizona Project (CAP) be constructed and deliver Colorado River water to southern Arizona.  That was a big deal back then.  In Colorado, I worked for a small town near Vail (at the headwaters of the Colorado River) and was responsible for managing development and the Town’s very senior water rights portfolio.  Currently, I’m the Director of Public Works for the City of Poway and responsible for, among other things, its water treatment and distribution systems.  I’m a product of the Southwest, and water has had a strong influence on my personal and professional life.

Q: What are your priorities or interests as a Board member?

A: My priorities as a Board member are to work hard, listen carefully, and add value wherever I can.  The SDCWA is a premier organization with excellent staff and strong administrative and financial policies.  I want to see that continue.  I don’t take the responsibly of being a Board Member lightly – I feel honored to work with some of the brightest minds in water.

Q: Besides maintaining safe and reliable water supplies, what do you see as the top three issues facing the San Diego region?

A:  Housing, transportation, and aging infrastructure.

Q: What do you like to do when you are not working?

A: Now that my kids are older I spend a lot of my free time running. Recently, I’ve been stretching myself by training for an ultra-marathon. It really helps me think, clear my mind, and reduce stress.

The Water Authority’s Board of Directors typically meets on the fourth Thursday of each month. The Board invites the public to attend its monthly meetings and to comment on agenda items or other matters before the Board. For meeting times, agendas and documents, go to www.sdcwa.org/board-directors.

Water Utility Hero of the Week, Phil Stevens, Padre Dam MWD

The water industry is among the sectors that are classified as essential. Phil Stevens, Padre Dam Municipal Water District Senior Lab Analyst, is the Water Utility Hero of the Week.

Water Utility Hero of the Week-Phil Stevens-Primary-Padre Dam MWD

Water Utility Hero of the Week, Phil Stevens, Padre Dam MWD

Editor’s Note: This feature highlights water utility employees in the San Diego region working during the coronavirus pandemic to ensure a safe, reliable and plentiful water supply. The water industry is among the sectors that are classified as essential. Phil Stevens, Padre Dam Municipal Water District Senior Lab Analyst, is the Water Utility Hero of the Week.

Water Utility Hero of the Week: Phil Stevens

Job/Agency: Padre Dam Municipal Water District Senior Lab Analyst

How did you become interested in working in the water industry?

After serving in the military, I decided to attend college majoring in Biology. Upon graduation, I began searching for a field that is intellectually challenging, has an important role in the community, and contributes a positive impact in the environment. I found a job announcement for a laboratory analyst at Padre Dam Municipal Water District. I was not very familiar with the water industry at the time, but after doing further research it seemed like it would be a great fit for me. I have now been in this field for 18 years and still find this career very rewarding.

How has your job changed during the pandemic?

As one would imagine, work done in a water quality laboratory cannot be done remotely. There have been staffing challenges when a member of the lab staff cannot come into work due to potential COVID-19 exposure or caring for a family member. Early on in the pandemic we also found it hard to get some of the supplies we needed.

How are you keeping safe?

I am keeping safe by following the health guidelines that have been established. My coworkers and I wear a mask and practice social distancing at all times and do our best to stay safe outside of work.

What are you most looking forward to after the crisis ends?

I miss my family and close friends very much and cannot wait to spend time with them. I am also looking forward to attending my children’s sporting events.

The Water Utility Hero of the Week highlights essential work performed during the COVID-19 pandemic by employees of the San Diego County Water Authority’s 24 member agencies.

Water Plant Cyberattack Is Wake Up Call, 20 Years in the Making

A cyberattack on a Florida water treatment plant underscores the need for strong security protections at the municipal level, attorneys and industry professionals say.

A hacker gained access to an Oldsmar, Fla. city computer on Feb. 5 and changed the level of sodium hydroxide, also known as lye, local authorities said. It isn’t yet known whether the breach originated from the U.S. or from outside the country. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is working with local authorities.

Hack Exposes Vulnerability of Cash-Strapped US Water Plants

A hacker’s botched attempt to poison the water supply of a small Florida city is raising alarms about just how vulnerable the nation’s water systems may be to attacks by more sophisticated intruders. Treatment plants are typically cash-strapped, and lack the cybersecurity depth of the power grid and nuclear plants.