Pima County Regional Wastewater Reclamation Department (RWRD) and the University of Arizona’s WEST Center have partnered with the United States Army for the creation of a grant funded, workforce development program. Operating in tandem with the new $4.1 million potable water research project led by Dr. Achilli, the program is targeted at recruiting and training candidates for technical positions within the water and wastewater industries. Initially, the project will offer educational opportunities to military personnel transitioning to civil employment as well as cross-train existing utility employees.
The focus of the education program is training individuals for critical job opportunities, including instrumentation and process control positions and Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition (SCADA) technicians1. To design the program, water and wastewater utilities and private firms were asked to provide input, and were asked:
“If your firm were recruiting candidates for either SCADA or Instrumentation and Controls positions, what are the top five skills you would like to see, and what are the top three competencies a candidate must possess for employment in your organization?”
Through responses to this question, essential skills were identified, and the course outline was shaped to prepare trainees in these areas (Table 1). The next step of the project is identifying partner organizations to help with the creation of specific program content and possibly program instruction. These partner organizations will help to establish a pipeline of qualified candidates for filling critical industry positions in Arizona as well as benefit from access to trained individuals for internships and direct hire opportunities.
The curriculum, currently in the development phase, will include hands-on classroom instruction, on-the-job training academies, and trade skill certifications.
- It is envisioned that in-person classroom instruction will take place at Pima County’s Water Campus and at partner organization sites.
- A fully functioning direct potable reuse (DPR) treatment train will be available at the University of Arizona’s WEST Center for hands-on operator training.
- It is expected that equipment vendor demonstrations and instructions will be an integral part of the experience.
The goal is to develop the core curriculum content during 2023 with the first instructional classes beginning in summer 2024. Thus far, municipal partners include Pima County, City of Tucson, City of Phoenix, City of Scottsdale, and the City of Mesa. Commercial partners committed to developing content and providing teaching instruction include M3 Engineering & Technology Corp., HDR, Jacobs and EPCOR.
The project is being led by Jeff Prevatt, Deputy Director of the Treatment Division at Pima County RWRD. Program development efforts, and the resulting curriculum, will be extensively documented for duplication throughout the water sector thereby improving public utility and engineering services.
1 Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition (SCADA) is the standard term for digital networks and computer systems that gather and analyze real-time data. SCADA provides consistent automated data and control options to system operators working in utilities and manufacturing. As stated by the Water Resources Alliance, “Key personnel in these sectors can see where real-time problems are occurring in their systems through various data logging points.”