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ABC Meets in San Diego and Unveils New Standards & Certification Protocols

From January 22-25, 2013, state drinking water and wastewater program certification officers met with their colleagues and other interested parties during the Annual Conference of the Association of Boards of Certification (ABC).  Held in San Diego, CA, the meeting drew about 130 participants from the U.S., Canada, and Jordan as well as representatives from several Tribes and the territories of Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands (as well as ASDWA staff).  The conference theme was “Waves of Change…Oceans of Opportunity.”  ABC President for 2013, Brent Herring of United Water/Narragansett Bay Commission, focused on three ABC organizational goals for the year ahead:  meet and/or exceed performance objectives; foster relationships; and mentor/prepare for the future.

During the Conference, specialized sessions looked at issues such as bridging the gap between regulatory requirements and the certified operator; the importance of higher education for water operators; and effective partnerships for recruitment and training.  ABC staff also provided updates on new and updated initiatives.  In the testing service arena, ABC has updated the protocol for standardized exams and now offers a new program-specific module for states wishing to add additional questions.  Testing now also supports a “go green” initiative to reduce the amount of paper and share more information via email.  As well, standardized continuing education programs are focusing on on-line or distance learning training approaches.

In looking ahead, ABC is in the process of reviewing a new draft model standards protocol to “provide a framework for what a first-tier program should strive to be and do…these model standards provide a concrete objective toward which all programs should strive [and be used as] benchmarks by which individual programs may be evaluated.”  These new certification standards are not intended to replace state requirements but rather serve as an enhanced approach to improving the quality and professionalism of certified operators both nationally and abroad.  ABC hopes to have a final version of the new model standards document completed before the end of this year.  ABC is also working toward developing its own “Professional Operator” designation that evaluates operators within the context of three principal arenas:  adhere to industry standards; emphasize and participate in continuing education; and meet an enforceable code of ethics.  ABC has identified several key benefits to be derived for operators who take on this new professional certification status:  greater public recognition, increased mobility, professional advancement, confidence in the workforce, and enhanced public health protection.  ABC has noted that this is a voluntary effort and is not intended to replace existing state certification criteria.