Water Advanced Technological Education Resource for Individuals (WATER-I)
The need for a skilled workforce in water conservation technology is vital to regional and national economies and to a growing population facing rising water rates in the future. Industry partnerships will help advance a new type of shared technical education in water conservation. In this new model, colleges and industry will share the responsibility of educating America's technician workforce. Currently, few complete Water Conservation Technician programs exist in the United States. Lane Community College's (LCC) Water Advanced Technological Education Resource for Individuals (WATER-I) Program aims to address this need for a Water Conservation Technician workforce. The program will be designed to increase access to Water Conservation Technician education for more diverse community-college populations. The WATER-I model will use a blended-learning delivery method to expand Water Conservation Technician education to students across the western US, with the potential to expand across the nation. Students will take LCC's coursework online and complete their course fieldwork with an LCC-trained utility mentor at their local utility. Regional utilities and utility professional associations have agreed to provide employee-mentors for this project.
WATER-I leverages an on-line content delivery approach to reach a broader range of students than currently served by LCC's Water Conservation Technician program. WATER-I expands online curriculum to students in rural areas and to other nontraditional students. The program is motivated by 1) the high demand for a Water Conservation Technician workforce by industry and consumers; 2) the need for an education method to reach broader student populations, and 3) LCC's expertise in both Water Conservation Technician programs and in delivering quality programs outside traditional classroom settings. To widen WATER-I's geographic focus, WATER-I staff will transfer the didactic elements into an online environment and develop fieldwork experiences through regional water utilities; these fieldwork experiences are similar to internships or cooperative education. With this model of higher education/ industry partnership, students can receive Water Conservation Technicians training, regardless of geography or other limitations to participating in a solely face-to-face program. Multiple postsecondary institutions, water utilities, and water professional associations have partnered with LCC to develop WATER-I. The project has the potential to develop a mechanism for students across the country to access a high-quality water conservation program and career.