Monday, October 3, 2016

NSF grant for Cuyamaca College's Water and Wastewater Technology program

Students tour a water treatment plant.
Cuyamaca College has secured a National Science Foundation grant of nearly $900,000 for an innovative new program to improve and expand training of the next generation of water industry professionals needed to operate and maintain California’s complex water supply and delivery systems.

Funding for California WaterWorks: Building the People Pipeline comes at a critical time. The Water Research Foundation and the American Water Works Association anticipate that water utilities will lose up to half their workforce over the next decade as older workers opt to retire. A 2014 Water Research Foundation report estimates that nearly one-third of the water industry workforce is eligible to retire.

“Cuyamaca College's Water and Wastewater Technology Program has a well-deserved reputation for its commitment to quality, innovation, and a high standard of excellence in providing instruction and training to prepare our students for a career in the water and wastewater industry,” said Joe Young, who coordinates the program that has delivered water and wastewater management education for more than half a century. “This latest National Science Foundation grant will help us to improve and expand our program and continue to set the pace in water and wastewater workforce development.”

Highlights of the effort, which will be run through Cuyamaca College’s Water and Wastewater Technology Program, include:

  • The Institute for Water Studies. The Institute will provide a state-of-the art water distribution demonstration system that will function as a laboratory, integrating science, technology, engineering and math into a hands-on career preparation program that will better prepare students to manage, improve and maintain water and wastewater systems throughout the state.
  • Workforce development. To respond to a high level of projected retirements, and the need for a larger pool of workers, California WaterWorks will recruit women and transitioning active-duty military members for its training programs. Cuyamaca College will help students develop math and work readiness skills, and will provide other support services to prepare students for a successful career in the water and wastewater industry.
  • Improve Educational Pathways. California WaterWorks will create clear, educational pathways leading to industry certifications in water treatment, water distribution, backflow and cross connection control, wastewater treatment, and wastewater collection. In addition, California WaterWorks will train K-12 teachers to infuse water and wastewater management concepts into their math and science lessons, providing early awareness and exposure to careers in the water and wastewater industry for their students.
California WaterWorks: Building the People Pipeline evolved through discussions with the Cuyamaca College Water and Wastewater Technology Program Industry Advisory Committee, which comprises water industry professionals from the City of San Diego Public Utilities Department, the San Diego County Water Authority, Helix Water District, Padre Dam Water District, the City of Escondido Utilities Department, the Olivenhain Water District, and others.
California WaterWorks will train water and wastewater technicians at a historic point in time for water infrastructure. A $7.5 billion bond measure was approved by voters in November 2014 to address the state’s critical water and wastewater infrastructure deficiencies. California water and wastewater agencies are projected to carry out $45.8 billion in upgrades to the water system and $27.8 billion in wastewater systems improvements over the next two decades.

Cuyamaca College has delivered water and wastewater management education for more than a half a century, and its Water and Wastewater Technology Program has a track record of successfully administering several grants that expanded the capacity of the California Community Colleges system to partner with the water and wastewater industry.

Careers in water/wastewater technology involve the administration, operation, and maintenance of drinking water and wastewater treatment facilities, drinking water distribution systems, and wastewater collection systems. The Water & Wastewater Technology Program prepares students to qualify for and pass state certifications required by law to work in the water and wastewater field.

The National Science Foundation grant program begins Oct. 1 and will run through Sept. 30, 2019. Cuyamaca College will be responsible for funding after that date, though several water agencies have pledged to donate equipment and materials to help further the program.

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