WEF Operator Initiative Makes the Profession a Priority

February 28, 2013

Featured, WEF Resources & Efforts

WEFTEC 2012 marked the 25th anniversary of Operations Challenge. A total of 38 teams gathered in New Orleans to compete in the competition’s five events. Photos courtesy of Kieffer Photography.

WEFTEC 2012 marked the 25th anniversary of Operations Challenge. A total of 38 teams gathered in New Orleans to compete in the competition’s five events. Photos courtesy of Kieffer Photography.

WEFTEC 2012 marked the 25th anniversary of Operations Challenge. A total of 38 teams gathered in New Orleans to compete in the competition’s five events. Photos courtesy of Kieffer Photography. WEFTEC 2012 marked the 25th anniversary of Operations Challenge. A total of 38 teams gathered in New Orleans to compete in the competition’s five events. Photos courtesy of Kieffer Photography.

In 2010, the Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.) launched the Operator Initiative. It focuses on recruitment and retention of operators, education and training for operators and operator trainers, and recognition for operators. WEF’s efforts through the initiative encompass several programs and involve WEF staff, volunteers, and leaders.

“WEF offers several training resources and efforts to advance the operator profession, including online courses, educational programming at WEFTEC® and other conferences and events, and hands-on experience at workshops and through the annual Operations Challenge competition. The initiative was started to make these resources easily accessible and to identify areas to expand,” said Christine Radke, WEF technical and educational program manager.

Click to see WEF's Operators Resource Center.

In February 2011, WEF launched the Operators Resource Center, an online repository that compiles training and continuing education, certification resources, technical information, and networking opportunities. In May 2011, WEF released the updated “Wastewater Systems Operations Professionals Certification and Training” position statement.

The initiative gained momentum in June 2011 with the Operator Certification and Training Summit. About 40 industry professionals gathered at the summit to help develop a plan to advance operator training, certification, and recognition. Read about the summit in the Highlights article “Water Treatment Professionals Gather To Give Operator Profession Direction,” the WE&T magazine article “WEF addresses certification, training issues” or the “Operations Certification and Training Summit” document.

In June 2012, WEF hosted a workshop in which 30 industry experts gathered to devise a framework for an Operator Apprenticeship Program. WEF submitted an application to the U.S. Department of Labor for National Guidelines for Wastewater Systems Operator Apprenticeship Standards, which was approved in November 2012. Read the Highlights articles “Water Professionals Help Devise Wastewater Operator Apprenticeship Program Framework” for more about the workshop, and see “U.S. Labor Department Approves Guidelines for Wastewater Operator Apprenticeship,” for more about the apprenticeship.

Also in 2012, WEF held an Operator Ingenuity Contest as a way for operators to show how they made an innovative change at their plant. The winners were given the opportunity to present what they did at WEFTEC 2012 in New Orleans. Winners also will be featured in WE&T throughout the year. WEF plans to do the contest again this year.

In June 2011, about 40 industry professionals gathered at the Operator Certification and Training Summit to help develop a plan to advance operator training, certification, and recognition. WEF photo/Jennifer Fulcher.

In June 2011, about 40 industry professionals gathered at the Operator Certification and Training Summit to help develop a plan to advance operator training, certification, and recognition. WEF photo/Jennifer Fulcher.

WEF will continue to provide resources and training to operators. Since the new apprenticeship provides a point of entry into the profession, WEF’s next steps will be to work with partners to set minimum standards for operator education, based on a core body of knowledge instituted in both 2-year associate degree and certification programs for wastewater operators, Radke said. “The idea is for the curricula to complement the related instruction identified in the new Wastewater Systems Operators Apprenticeship Standards,” she said.

In addition, WEF plans to examine how to expedite the entry of qualified military veterans into the water quality industry workforce.

“Working with WEF Member Associations, volunteers, and organizations such as the Department of Labor and the Association of Boards of Certification, has been instrumental on the progress WEF has made. There is still work to be done, and we hope to continue collaborating with current partners and forming new partnerships,” Radke said.

Jennifer Fulcher, WEF Highlights

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