Oct 02, 2019

EPA Announces Water Workforce Solution with New Initiative

The EPA has recently announced the Water Workforce Initiative, which has the goal of retaining and recruiting highly skilled water workforce professionals.

Young professional working on a laptop.

Last week at the 92nd Annual Water Environment Federation Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC), the U.S. EPA announced the Water Workforce Initiative. 

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said this initiative will “help local communities ensure they have enough highly trained workers to operate the water utilities of today and tomorrow.” It aims to create federal leadership, encourage collaboration with partners and raise awareness about water sector careers. Considering the field of water and wastewater treatment is tasked with providing Americans access to clean and safe water, these measures are pivotal in supporting the skilled workers in water careers and fostering successful recruitment efforts.

There are serious staffing shortages for the operation and maintenance of essential drinking water and wastewater infrastructure, which mainly can be attributed to the projected workforce loss of one-third of drinking and wastewater operators who are set to retire in the next 10 years. There is also a general lack of awareness about water career sectors, which the agency previously attempted to mitigate with efforts like a video campaign entitled “Water You Waiting For?”, which showcased the water profession for high school and vocational technical school students.

The EPA has also recently collaborated with the Department of Veterans Affairs by signing a Memorandum of Understanding to provide veterans with disabilities career opportunities in the water sector. In 2016, the EPA participated in the Department of Labor’s workgroup to update the Water and Wastewater Competency Model, which facilitates water operator apprenticeship programs and offers specific competencies required for workers in the water industry. These partnerships intend to clearly outline the professional development opportunities available in the water workforce, ultimately supporting recruitment and retention efforts. 

“Building a dynamic and diverse water workforce for the 21st century is absolutely vital to continuing to deliver on our sector’s mission to protect public health and the environment,” said Tom Kunetz, Water Environment Federation (WEF) president. Upon continued collaboration with partners to formulate and advance innovative initiatives, the agency intends to release a draft Water Workforce Initiative for public comment this winter.

Read more articles on workforce in the water and wastewater industry:

Listen to episode 13 of Talking Under Water about young professionals: