More than 200 people explored career opportunities in the water and wastewater industry at the third annual Women in Water Symposium Thursday at Cuyamaca College.
The conference’s goal this year was to create a community of people with the interest and aptitude to take on what were previously considered non-traditional careers.
Speakers at the conference shared their personal experiences working in the water industry and offered tips for young professionals.
‘Rewarding and humbling’
“Knowing we’re a key contributor to public health through the provision of safe water delivery and recovery is rewarding and humbling,” said keynote speaker Shauna Lorance, director of the City of San Diego Public Utilities Department.
Lorance offered advice to people considering making water a career choice.
“The water industry is challenging and always evolving, and has amazing opportunities for growth and career diversity… from laborers and technicians, finance experts and engineers, chemists and community outreach specialists,” said Lorance. “It also has some of the best people around.”
Diane Stoltz, cross-connection program specialist at the Ramona Municipal Water District, said there are job opportunities that don’t require a degree.
“A few water classes and a state-issued certificate in water or wastewater are the starting blocks to a rewarding career in water,” said Stoltz, “Educating the public and helping them understand their role in protecting the drinking water system, is most rewarding to me.”
Stoltz credited Don Jones, Cuyamaca College Center for Water Studies program coordinator, with encouraging her to work in the water industry.
Wide range of career choices in the water industry
Jaime Okewole, human resources analyst with the Helix Water District, said jobs in the water industry are more varied than people might imagine.
“I think the biggest misconception about working in water is that the view of opportunities available in the water industry is so narrow,” said Okewole. “When you picture water, one might initially just think construction or water treatment but not realize all of the support positions it takes to run a water agency successfully. We have jobs that span a number of different fields and talents. The commonality is that each person holds customer service as their top priority.”
For the first time, the Women in Water Symposium offered three program 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.
The series of workshops wrapped up with a tour of the Water Conservation Garden.
“This industry is growing and becoming ever more important as new innovations will be needed due to climate change and fast growing cities,” said Kimberlyn Velasquez, public affairs representative with the San Diego County Water Authority. “If you ever find yourself looking to try something new down the line, the water industry has many sectors and different types of positions that you can move into throughout your career.”
Aging workforce – ‘silver tsunami’ – creates job opportunities
The Water Authority was among the water industry employers offering career information at the conference.
“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 Water Authority. “Those retirements provide an opportunity to diversify the water industry workforce.”
Work and Training Opportunities Abound in Local Water and Wastewater Industry
The San Diego region’s water and wastewater agencies have developed several pathways to jobs in the water and wastewater industry. For more information go to: https://bit.ly/3adxBzM