On Nov. 14-15, over 70 experts in water sector workforce development met in Alexandria, Va., to chart a path forward for solving workforce development challenges.
The National Water Workforce Convening met at the state-of-the-art facilities of Alexandria Renew Enterprises (AlexRenew), and was hosted by the US EPA, with co-hosting support from WEF and other national water associations. The 70 attendees flew in from across the nation and represented every kind of organization and stakeholder involved with water workforce development issues, ranging from utility general managers and human resources officers, to community college administrators and Native American tribes, with multiple federal and state agencies participating as well.
The Brookings Institution’s report – Renewing the Water Workforce - estimates the entire water sector employs 1.7 million people when accounting for utility staff, consultants, manufacturing and other jobs directly associated with the water sector. A 2010 study by the Water Research Foundation found that an estimated 30 percent to 50percent of utility workers will retire over the next decade, taking with them tremendous professional knowledge and experience. As AlexRenew CEO Karen Pallansch said in her opening remarks, “Our job is to get people as engaged in water as they are in going to work for Amazon, because our jobs are really, really cool.”
The purpose of the National Water Workforce Convening was to identify specific immediate and long-term challenges with water sector workforce development, and pinpoint actions that should be taken to solve them. The findings of the meeting will be made public in a report expected in the near future, which will help provide a clear path forward at the local, regional and national levels for addressing this issue. WEF collaborated with the EPA in hosting the event and will be involved with implementing elements of the action items coming out of the Convening.
The WEF/AWWA Transformative Issues Symposium on Workforce scheduled for August 7-9, 2019, in Washington, DC, is expected to detail many of the solutions and recommendations from the Convening.