Water/Wastewater Certified Operator Education Project
According to a Georgetown University study, by 2020, 68% of jobs will require some post-secondary education or training. Community colleges are positioned to educate highly skilled workers for these jobs. According to utility industry trade associations, a crisis is remerging from the unprecedented number of water/wastewater facility operators who will be retiring in ten years or less. The water/wastewater utility industry is asking community colleges to establish a pipeline of new workers capable of passing state certification examinations and taking over the management of the facilities that supply clean water. Pellissippi State Community College proposes to establish a new Environmental Science Technology Associate of Applied Science Degree. Graduates will be eligible for employment in regional water quality and wastewater treatment laboratories and plant facilities. In addition, they will be able to take state certification exams more quickly than workers who have been trained on the job. A successful program could be replicated by the other 12 Tennessee community colleges, as well as community colleges across the nation.
This project will: 1) Develop and incorporate the necessary courses into a program of study leading to the Environmental Science Technology (EST) Associate of Applied Science degree and recruit students into that degree program; 2) Build a partnership network with area utility districts to support: student participation in field and internship experiences; faculty collaborations with current technicians to develop and adapt the core STEM course curriculum; and identification of specific industry standards; 3) Graduate a total of 36 EST majors for immediate entry into the workforce at water/wastewater treatment facilities or other related jobs in the East Tennessee region and beyond. Pellissippi State Community College will recruit a diverse group of students for the project via a vigorous media and outreach campaign. Retention, degree completion, and transition to employment will be supported by advising, academic and career counseling, supplemental instruction, student success coordinators, and tutoring. Senior industry management will serve on the advisory board, assist with curriculum design, provide internships and field experiences, and hire graduates as appropriate.