Veterans Recruited For Water Utility Jobs
By Sara Jerome
A program in Texas is recruiting veterans as the next generation of water utility operators.
Industry analysts say the retirement of the baby-boomers means that water utilities will soon get hit with "brain drain," the ominous term economists use for the loss in skills and expertise when experienced labor stops working.
In the water sector, the problem could be dire. "The need for water and wastewater operators is predicted to increase by 12 percent by 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. At the same time, the water and wastewater industry will lose 40 percent of its current workforce within the next 10 years," Daily Light recently reported.
The Texas Rural Water Foundation is stepping up to help solve the program. It created a new group called the Veteran Employment Program to fill the predicted flood of job openings with military veterans, offering them support with training and licensing.
"Rural utilities are encouraged to apply to the program in order to prequalify to help fill their employment needs more quickly with a veteran in need of a career. Veterans also can pre-apply to further the process of finding employment with a rural utility," The Light reported.
The program is starting small but could be a model for similar groups across the country. “Our goal is to admit five to 10 veterans in the year of 2013-2014, and after that we hope for 15 to 20 total at the end of our third year,” said Rashedah Mohammed, a specialist in veteran employment issues.
Connecticut is exploring a similar idea. The Connecticut Department of Public Health's drinking water section "has taken steps towards considering military experience, associated with water related job titles, towards meeting minimum requirements for Connecticut certification exams," according to the state.
The idea is percolating in other corners of the water sector, as well. Officials from the Department of Veteran's Affairs attended the American Water Works Association's (AWWA) show in June to bolster the connection.
"Veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and other military service are seen as excellent candidates to fill mission critical jobs at water utilities. AWWA’s 2013 State of the Water Industry Report, to be published this fall, will demonstrate that replacing an aging water workforce remains among the top concerns for water utilities," AWWA said.
Image credit: "Veterans Tribute Career Technical Academy," © 2012 US Department Of Education, used under an Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/