National Workforce Convening Creates Action Agenda for Water Sector

Workforce meeting photoOn November 14-15, the National Water Sector Workforce Convening was held in Alexandria, VA. The convening was hosted by EPA and national water utility associations for participants representing utilities, technical assistance providers, states, and other organizations across the sector, including ASDWA. The agenda included presentations with examples of current workforce efforts followed by interactive discussions on recruiting, retaining, and developing a strong and adequate water sector workforce.

The purpose of the convening was to deepen our collective understanding of current initiatives and the opportunities they present for leveraging and scaling efforts in the water sector and to develop an action agenda and framework for water sector workforce partner collaboration. Some of the top actions identified by workshop participants included:

  • Identifying sustainable funding for a national water sector workforce development initiative.
  • Developing a water utility primer for employee recruitment and candidate development that shares successful strategies and includes links to current resources.
  • Developing a compendium of useful resources to “rip-off and duplicate (ROAD),” such as Baywork, the Bay Area Water/Wastewater Workforce Reliability initiative that includes a consortium of water utilities.
  • Engaging with transportation and other sectors to promote water jobs and provide training on common entry-level skills needed for both types of professions.
  • Encouraging peer-to-peer relationships for large utilities to help small utilities, and for neighboring utilities to work together on workforce issues and learn from each other.
  • Establishing a set of baseline water utility operator skills and certification needs that are transferable across state lines.

Participants also emphasized the need to hold future meetings like this one and continue collaborations with this group and others to move forward on these action items. In addition, EPA is charged with developing a strategic workforce plan as part of America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018. To this end, EPA will be partnering with USDA and stakeholders, including the organizations represented at the meeting, to develop the plan that will likely incorporate some of the actions identified at the convening.