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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.

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.

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.”

Veterans Day Salute to San Diego Water Industry Vets

Many of the San Diego region’s 4,500 water and wastewater workers are military veterans. The San Diego County Water Authority and its 24 member agencies are recognizing those veteran water industry professionals this week in honor of Veterans Day.

One of those water industry employees with a military background is Sam Pacheco, a field service representative with the Helix Water District. Pacheco served 20 years in the U.S. Marine Corps, retiring at the rank of Gunnery Sergeant.

U.S. Marine Corps veteran Sam Pacheco is one of 15 Helix Water District employees who are military veterans. Photo: Water Authority Veterans Day

Veterans Day Salute to San Diego Water Industry Vets

Many of the San Diego region’s 4,500 water and wastewater workers are military veterans. The San Diego County Water Authority and its 24 member agencies are recognizing those veteran water industry professionals this week in honor of Veterans Day.

One of those water industry employees with a military background is Sam Pacheco, a field service representative with the Helix Water District. Pacheco served 20 years in the U.S. Marine Corps, retiring at the rank of Gunnery Sergeant. He ended his career at MCAS Miramar in Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting, as an on-base firefighter. Along with Veterans Day, Pacheco is celebrating the 245th birthday of the Marine Corps (November 10).

Public service a tradition

“When I got to serve in the military, I got to serve the folks of this country,” said Pacheco. “Now that I work for the Helix Water District, I do the same thing, serving the people of the community. It’s as gratifying. When I think about serving the public on a different level, I still get to do it now for Helix.”

Helix Water District has 15 military veterans on its staff. Board President Mark Gracyk served as an enlisted engineer in the U.S. Army, and Division 1 Director Dan McMillan served as a first lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps and as a company commander in the California National Guard.

Water and wastewater careers draw on military experience

Veteran Sam Pacheco said he gets a second opportunity to serve his community in his job with the Helix Water District. Photo: Water Authority

Veteran Sam Pacheco said he gets a second opportunity to serve his community in his job with the Helix Water District. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

When Pacheco retired from the Marine Corps in 2011, he worked in the heating and air conditioning industry.

“I started working at Lake Jennings part-time,” said Pacheco. “A meter reader job became available and I thought, “‘I like exercise, I like being outside all day, that sounds like a job for me.”’

He became a full-time employee in March 2018.

Military to civilian employment

Pacheco said it is common for veterans to struggle to find civilian employment and it was true for him.

“This was the biggest transition going from the military to civilian employment, finding someone just as professional as the military,” he said. “Helix runs a very professional outfit. The caliber of people at the District, the work tempo, the expectations, the standards expected. I couldn’t have gotten luckier. It’s a big blessing for me.”

Pacheco appreciates the organization and high standards for water industry employees.

“When you come from something like the Marine Corps for 20 years, you are used to having all the I’s dotted and T’s crossed,” he said. “The way Helix takes care of business and runs the district, for me I don’t ever have to worry ‘has someone taken care of this or thought about it?’ I’m really impressed.”

Credit for military experience

The San Diego County Water Authority has co-sponsored state legislation in recent years to create and expedite career pathways and encourage veterans to consider careers within the water industry after serving their country. An effort by the Water Authority and its member agencies helped pass legislation that gives credit to veterans for their military experience when transitioning to the water and wastewater industry.

Signed into law in 2019, Assembly Bill 1588 requires the State of California recognize the experience and education veterans acquire while they are in the military for its operator certification program for water and wastewater treatment plants and water distribution systems.

Water Studies Open House Keeps Career Pipeline Flowing

In an economy altered by the coronavirus pandemic, water and wastewater industry essential employees remain in demand. To help people explore their career options, the Cuyamaca College Center for Water Studies program will hold its annual Open House and Student Orientation at distance via Zoom on Tuesday, August 11, at 6 p.m.

Artwork from Colton, age six, thanking the ten Carlsbad desalination plant workers sheltering in place to maintain operations. Courtesy: Poseidon Water Community Thanks Desalination

Community Thanks Desalination Plant Workers For Sacrifice

Expressions of gratitude and support have poured in from a grateful community to the ten volunteers sheltering in place at the Claude “Bud” Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant in San Diego County. As people learned about their effort to maintain plant operations and keep the water flowing during the COVID-19 pandemic, residents responded by expressing their heartful thanks through messages, photos and artwork.

“The desal plant employees were overwhelmed with the community support they have received,” said Jessica Jones, Poseidon Water director of communications. “They read and enjoyed every message, photo, and drawing.  The support was just the boost in morale that they needed to finish out their 21-days onsite.”

The on-site crew has sustained plant operations and maintenance since March 19 to ensure continued production of high-quality drinking water, in compliance with all state and federal drinking water standards.

Messages and artwork shared with the workers

Lori, a resident of Rancho Carlsbad, put her artistic skills to use with this entertaining thank you. Courtesy: Poseidon Water

Rachel Welland, Bay Park: “Each day I think about how crucial our water supply is, as we are all quarantined in our houses. I appreciate what you are all doing to keep us hydrated during these crazy times!”

Lucy Lusk, South Carlsbad: “Well I will never take that water that comes out of the faucet for granted again. Thanks for volunteering to stay at the desal plan to keep it running, we are grateful to you for your service to our community.”

Diane, Spring Valley: “Thank you for providing us clean water. I know how important your job is, because when I was growing up in the Philippines, there was no water, and we have to buy water by the drum. I’m sure your loved ones miss you terribly.”

The Adams Family including Mom, Dad, and three kids ages 7, 10, and 12: “Thank you for your personal sacrifice serving the surrounding communities. Water is precious. Water is life. Thank you for committing to keep our water safe and available.”

Kids put their talents to work

Kids got out their paintbrushes, pens, and even sidewalk chalk to let the workers know how much they were appreciated.

Miles Antoine, age 7, Chula Vista: “Thank you for helping everything grow!”

Miles Antoine, age 7, Chula Vista: “Thank you for helping everything grow!” Courtesy: Poseidon Water

Dylan, age 21 months, Carlsbad: “Thank you for helping provide us fresh water.”

Dylan, age 21 months, Carlsbad: “Thank you for helping provide us fresh water.” Courtesy: Poseidon Water

Zoe, age 10, Encinitas: “Thank you for being away from your families and keeping our water safe.”

Zoe, age 10, Encinitas: “Thank you for being away from your families and keeping our water safe.” Courtesy: Poseidon Water

Colson Hanson, age 6, Scripps Ranch: “Thank you for the hard work and staying at the plant so we have clean water.”

Colson Hanson, age 6, Scripps: “Thank you for the hard work and staying at the plant so we have clean water.” Courtesy: Poseidon Water

Heartwarming expressions of thanks

One resident was moved to write a poem for the desal plant workers.

Samantha, Carlsbad:

“Claude ‘Bud’ Lewis Desal Operators and techs showing some grace,

Changing your lives to Shelter in Place.

Missing your families and your comfortable bed,

I hope the City of Carlsbad keeps you well fed.

Toiling with coworkers for 12 hour shifts,

I only imagine there could be some rifts.

50 million gallons per day you give,

Without this water we could not live.

How long to stay? The time isn’t clear,

For your courage and hard work, I send you good cheer!”

Happy puppy

A 10-month old pup in Little Italy named “Archie Moore” had his owner provide a photographic thank you.

With a little help from his owner, this happy pup is thankful for a full water dish. Courtesy: Poseidon Water

Yen Linh Huynh, California: “Our hearts go out to you at the desal plant. It’s heroes like you that give humanity hope for a better day. Thank you from this family of 4.”

Barbara Blash, Oceanside: “Thank you so much for your efforts to keep our little corner of the world turning. Hope my small note will generate a warm smile until the time when a heartfelt handshake or hug will be delivered.”

Paul Maxwell, San Diego: “Hey Operators I’m a Paramedic in San Diego and you are my hero! Thanks for stepping up!”

Martie Hatcher, Carlsbad: “Please let your families know that they are so appreciated for this gift of you. I know they really miss your hugs, smiles, laughter and company!! On behalf of my husband and I, ‘Tussen tac,’ Norwegian for ‘a thousand thanks!”‘

Melanie, Carlsbad: “The world is better for having people like you in it.”

Another group of employees stands ready to relieve the ten workers later this week when their 21-day commitment ends.

The San Diego County Water Authority purchases up to 56,000 acre-feet of water from the Carlsbad plant per year – enough to serve approximately 400,000 people annually. The plant is a major component of the Water Authority’s multi-decade strategy to diversify the county’s water supply portfolio and minimize vulnerability to drought or other water supply emergencies.

(L to R) Vallecitos Water District employees at the Meadowlark Water Reclamation Facility: Ivan Murguia, Arturo Sanchez, Dawn McDougle, Chris Deering, Marc Smith, and Matt Wiese. Photo: Vallecitos Water District employees

Customer Thanks Vallecitos Water District Employees for Their Efforts

Most Americans take a safe and reliable water supply for granted. Dedicated water and wastewater professionals, including Vallecitos Water District employees, work to provide a secure, plentiful supply of drinking water.

Vallecitos Water District customer Manisha Bambhania has a deeper appreciation. A native of India, Bambhania grew up in a home where running water was only available three hours per day, and sometimes much less.

Bambhania frequently posted favorable comments on Vallecitos Water District Facebook posts. “She would commonly write words like, ‘We all need to conserve, regardless of the drought,’ or ‘Thank you for all you do. We are so grateful for the services you are providing,’” said Public Information Representative Lisa Urabe.

“After more than a year of continued praise from Manisha, the public information staff reached out to her to thank her in person for her comments,” said Urabe. “We met at her house where she proceeded to tell us her story of growing up in India. Even though she lived in an upper middle-class neighborhood, water scarcity and lack of reliable water and wastewater infrastructure was a very real part of daily living.”

Vallecitos staff created a video to share Bambhania’s story about the work of Vallecitos Water District employees.

Vallecitos Water District employees ‘inspired’

Vallecitos employees viewed the video at a recent all-staff meeting. One of those employees is Dennis Richardson, who has worked for the agency the past 13 years.

“I thought it was incredible for a customer to actually thank the employees for the jobs that they do, and also to give us her past life experience of living in India and the importance of the water to the community,” said Richardson. “I was really inspired by her video.”

Other staff were also pleased at the positive remarks for their work.

“We all enjoy our jobs, and take great pride in what we do in serving the public,” said Shawn Askine, a water systems supervisor. “We’re happy citizens recognize the hard work we do providing clean reliable water to your tap everyday.”

The original video featuring Manisha Bambhania has also won statewide recognition from the California Water Environment Association Film Festival.

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

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