New England Water Works Association Tackles Workforce Issues

During the ABC Annual Conference in Tampa, Florida last week, Chip Mackey (New Hampshire Drinking Water Program) gave a presentation about finding “real world” solutions to the problem of an aging water workforce.  Mackey was part of a New England Water Works Association (NEWWA) committee charged to find answers to three critical questions:  Who replaces retiring operators?  How do we best train and qualify new operators?  How can we preserve and pass along necessary institutional knowledge?  The short answer is that we – collectively as stakeholders – are all responsible for solving the “who” problem.  The NEWWA committee identified specific actions that can/should be taken by different stakeholders – utilities, states, public officials, system owners, water-based associations, and US EPA.  Those actions speak to the two “how” questions and range from “review job descriptions to include more definition” and “post ‘How to Become an Operator’ information on state websites” to “provide ‘advance’ regulatory information for operators” and “develop grant funding which supports workforce succession.”  The committee identified and listed numerous other specific actions and activities that the various stakeholder groups can/should take.  To find out what they are and which recommendations for action are attached to ‘your’ stakeholder group, go to http://www.newwa.org/ and click on the “Drinking Water Workforce Brochure” link in the Useful Information section.  It makes for very interesting reading!

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