Chad Wilbanks, the strategic director of training and demonstrations at The Water Tower, spoke at the Georgia Association of Water Professionals (GAWP) 2019 Fall Conference & Laboratory Symposium on Wednesday Nov. 20.
During his presentation, Wilbanks focused on the ways The Water Tower plans on helping to train the next generation of the water world.
Immediately following his presentation on The Water Tower, Wilbanks was on a panel with Matt Green, Wastewater Superintendent at Gwinnett County and Jim Poff, a Senior Instructor at the Georgia Water and Wastewater Institute (GWWI). Green is a current employer of the incoming class of wastewater professionals and Poff helps to train them at the Institute.
The primary focus of the panel was the challenge of attracting and training future operators.
The incoming workforce is struggling with learning the material on the “revamped” certification exam created by The Association of Boards of Certification, said Green.
Members of the audience agreed, the new version of the test is more difficult than previous versions and asks for some material that many operators don’t necessarily need for their job.
The certification exams have a lower pass rate as well which is a concern to employers who have allocated abundant resources to training the newer classes of operators.
Attracting the next generation of operators is essential as much of the current workforce is nearing retirement. Thirty-seven percent of water utility workers and 31 percent of wastewater utility workers are set to retire in the next 10 years, according to the Water Environment Federation (WEF) Task Force on Workforce Sustainability report. Many of these retirees will be replaced by a new generation of workers, who’ve grown up with digital technologies.
Srinivas Jalla, Senior Vice President at Gresham Smith and the moderator representing GAWP, asked the panel how the industry can combat the “grey wave”, or the aging workforce retiring and leaving behind inexperienced operators.
Through partnerships with GWWI, Gwinnett County, and other water resource facilities, The Water Tower hopes to help combat the grey wave in the water resource industry through hands-on training in our facility.
Supplementing classroom training with real world scenarios in a monitored environment at The Water Tower can help newer operators to gain that necessary “on the job” experience.
The Water Tower is a new breed of innovation center providing answers to a multitude of complex challenges facing the water industry through an integrated approach to applied research, technology innovation, workforce development, and stakeholder engagement. With its mission to be a thriving ecosystem of water innovation fueled by imagination, informed by research, and powered by pioneers, The Water Tower is especially invested in helping utilities devise strategies to benefit from digital advancements in water supply and quality. For more information visit www.theh2otower.org