Workforce Development

New Pilot Program Addresses NJ’s Water Workforce Shortage

New Jersey Future (NJF), with the guidance of the Jersey Water Works (JWW) Water Workforce Task Force, has established the New Jersey Water Workforce Development Initiative pilot program to educate, train, and place graduates into employment opportunities within the water sector.

The initiative is designed to address the looming shortage of skilled labor within the state’s water agencies and utilities. With an estimated 50% of the country’s water utility workforce expected to retire within the decade, it is imperative that the next generation of our water workforce is well-trained and supported on their pathway to successful careers in the critically important water management arena.

New Jersey has over 500 municipal and private water utilities providing both drinking water and wastewater management that require the support of frontline workers in order to function efficiently, and to properly address chronic issues within the aging water infrastructure, such as lead pipe replacement and combined sewer overflow upgrades. Thankfully, some federal and state funding has been dedicated to solutions on water issues, however these essential services, and the utilities and agencies that provide them, require dedicated, well-trained, and qualified staff.

This pilot program pulls together the expertise and support of advocates, educators, the financial sector, and water companies. Bank of America provided funding for a pilot version of the water workforce program, and Hudson County Community College will recruit the applicants, deliver the curriculum, and help to place graduates. Veolia, a global environmental services company, has committed to providing internships for some of the graduates in its New Jersey drinking water operations. Informed by lessons learned from the pilot initiative, NJF and the JWW Water Workforce Task Force will collaborate to create a water workforce pathway with an aligned curriculum through the NJ Pathways to Career Opportunities initiative led by the New Jersey Council of County Colleges. New Jersey Water Association is also partnering to connect graduates from this program with their Apprenticeship program.

“Drinking water and wastewater utilities have the critical responsibility of keeping our drinking water and waterways clean and safe,” said Andy Kricun, managing director of Moonshot Missions and co-chair to the JWW Water Workforce Task Force. “And, our water utilities offer a variety of well-paying jobs in a stable, reliable employment sector. Those participating in the water workforce can make a living and make a difference! Therefore, it is essential for water utilities to ensure that their workforce is representative of the communities they serve and that those residents have a fair chance at the employment opportunities that the water sector offers.”

“Educating a workforce that will protect our water ecosystem, and ensure the delivery of clean, potable water is essential to our community,” said Hudson County Community College President, Dr. Christopher Reber. “We are proud to be a part of this initiative and to provide community members with the education and training that lead to meaningful, long-lasting employment opportunities.”

The Water Workforce Development Initiative will recruit participants beginning in spring 2023, and commence training in September 2023 with an 8-week, 50-hour-long program that introduces participants to a career in the water workforce. Participants will be trained through classroom and field experiences, and have the opportunity to connect with utility companies for employment opportunities following their completion of the program. Participants will also receive a stipend upon completion. This initiative will provide the framework for recruiting and preparing a diverse water workforce to meet the needs of the water sector. Entry-level jobs in this industry are simply a first step along a well-paying career ladder in the water sector.

“The New Jersey Water Workforce Development Initiative helps to create stable, lifelong careers for the next generation of our water workforce,” said Alberto Garofalo, president of Bank of America New Jersey. “The work that New Jersey Future is doing through this initiative is invaluable to the development of a diverse, successful water workforce in our state.”

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