Approximately 97% of the population in Kentucky has access to public drinking water. This means that, even in the most rural of communities, there exist job opportunities within the water and wastewater industry. Simply put, if there are water and wastewater services in your community, state law requires there must be certified operators in responsible charge of those facilities.
Due to a myriad of reasons, our state is facing a shortage of certified operators, making them high in demand and short in supply. It is projected that 30-50% of Operations Specialists will retire in the next decade. The average age of an operator in Kentucky is mid-50s. Nationally, only 2% of operators are age 18-25. Further, advancements in water treatment and supply technology have increased the skills and training required of this workforce. Our industry must address the need to train the next generation of skilled workers in order to protect and provide what is arguably the most valuable resource that is essential to all life—clean water.
What is An Operations Specialist?
Water and Wastewater Operations Specialists ensure the quality of Kentucky's water resources and protect public health, providing critical services to their communities. They protect our environment and ensure the health and safety of its citizens by providing access to safe, affordable drinking water and effective sanitation management.
Water and Wastewater Operation Specialists have a wide range of skills from computer technology to heavy machinery, from financial understanding to regulatory compliance. This profession offers opportunities to work both indoors and outdoors and must interact and work with engineers, chemists, management staff and laboratory staff. Rural utility operators typically are responsible for management, operations, and maintenance of a system. They can also be responsible for inspecting equipment, monitoring daily activity, maintaining regular test samples and ensure that safety standards are met by staying current on environmental laws and regulations.
Is Apprenticeship Right for You?
KRWA’s apprenticeship program started in the fall of 2019 and offers two occupations:
- Water Systems Operations Specialist
- Wastewater Systems Operations Specialist
- 4,000 hours of On the Job Training (approximately 2 years)
- 288 hours or Related Technical Instruction
Once an apprentice is matched with a utility, the apprentice will be assigned a mentor. The apprentice will work alongside this experienced technician for the duration of the program, and will receive a well-rounded, holistic technical education. Completion of the KRWA Apprenticeship Program will result in at least one water or wastewater operator certification and a nationally recognized registered apprenticeship credential.
Some of the skills and knowledge to be gained from this program include:
- Water/wastewater system operations and Maintenance
- Sample collection and reporting for Water/Wastewater regulatory compliance
- Drinking water disinfection and wastewater treatment techniques
- Mechanical and electrical troubleshooting
- Collaboration with operators, managers, board members and regulating agencies
- Security and emergency response procedures and planning
- Management and supervisory training