Thirsty for a new career? Look into the water sector

Guest post from the Competency Model Clearinghouse.

Looking for a new career or thinking about your future?  Would you like to have a job that puts you on the front lines of protecting the environment and your local community?  The water sector may be for you.

The water sector operates water treatment plants and supply systems to provide drinking water and wastewater services to our homes and the commercial and industrial sectors of the economy.  Water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators are one of the key occupations in this field.  These workers operate or control an entire process to transfer or treat water or wastewater.  In May 2014, the median annual wage for water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators was $44,100.  There are more than 100,000 of these workers in the U.S., and there will be more than 35,000 job openings due to growth and replacement needs over the next decade.

competency model pyramid for water sectorThe U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration (ETA) recently released an updated version of the Water and Wastewater Competency Model.  Depicted in a tiered pyramid graphic to illustrate how industry and occupational competencies build on a foundation of personal effectiveness, academic, and workplace competencies, the model represents the knowledge, skills, and abilities essential for successful performance in this sector.

In partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), DOL began the process of updating the model last year (The original was developed in 2009).  Working with leading industry associations the American Water Works Association (AWWA) and Water Environment Federation (WEF), a work group was assembled for the update process, including experts representing the EPA, WEF, AWWA, the National Rural Water Association (NRWA), and Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP).  The work group analyzed and revised the model, completing the update in March 2016.

Among the concepts that were added or given greater focus were:

  • Supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems
  • Water resources management
  • Cybersecurity and information security
  • Decentralized wastewater treatment systems
  • Water resilience

Sound interesting?  These are key issues in this always changing field related to new technologies, strategies for protecting the environment, and policies and ways of thinking about water.

The competency model can be a useful resource for career exploration and guidance, but it’s not primarily for students and jobs seekers.  The model has applications for workforce development professionals and educators as well.  The model can be used to support curriculum development and assessment, recruitment and hiring, and continuing professional development.  Users of the model are encouraged to apply it in innovative ways, change the scope of the model to an occupation or cluster, or customize the model for a local or regional need.

AWWA and WEF encourage students and job seekers with a variety of backgrounds, planned or achieved education levels, and interests to learn about working in water.  Veterans seeking a second career are encouraged to learn more about opportunities in water as well.

To learn more about the skills you’ll need for a career in water, check out the Water and Wastewater Competency Model on the Competency Model Clearinghouse.  The Clearinghouse also has information to assist you in using the competency model to address your workforce development challenges.  And visit the Work for Water site to find out more about career paths and opportunities.

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