DUNCAN, Okla. — The National Rural Water Association, the nation’s largest water utility association with over 31,000 members, will announce the creation of the NRWA Workforce Advancement Center Monday, Nov. 14 during a joint ceremony with the Oklahoma Rural Water Association at NRWA’s headquarters in Duncan, Okla. The Center will develop the WaterPro Apprenticeship Program, a nationally recognized standard that will be registered with the U.S. Department of Labor.
“The NRWA Workforce Advancement Center will ensure a well-trained and capable water sector workforce to meet the increasing demands of the water industry,” said NRWA CEO Sam Wade. “Advancements in water treatment and supply technology have increased the skills and training needed to protect public health and the environment. The apprenticeship program will ensure we have the skilled and educated workforce we need well into the future.”
NRWA State Affiliates will jointly make the announcement at training events for water and wastewater operations specialists in California, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Indiana, West Virginia and New York. The announcement and events will commemorate National Apprenticeship Week 2016 and will highlight the need for a national water sector apprenticeship initiative.
It takes over 380,000 highly skilled water and wastewater personnel to ensure the public supply of safe drinking water and to protect our lakes, streams and groundwater. Advancements in water treatment and supply technology have increased the skills and training required of this workforce. Water professionals are ultimately responsible for meeting stringent regulatory standards, replacing aging infrastructure, recruiting and training new operations specialists, and responding to and recovering from disasters.
In addition to increasing professional demands, utilities will soon be forced to replace many of their most experienced employees. Between 2010 and 2020, the water sector is expected to lose between 30 and 50 percent of the workforce to retirement. Many of these employees have worked at the same utility for the majority of their careers, and they will depart with decades of valuable institutional knowledge.