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Water Workforce Pilot Program at HCCC Graduates First Cohort

Hudson County Community College (HCCC) has successfully concluded its first Water Workforce Utility Pilot Project. The 8-week paid program for adults aims to develop a skilled workforce for the water industry in New Jersey. The 14 students in this cohort will now enter the water workforce with added skills and knowledge to establish lasting and fulfilling careers in the water industry.

The Water Workforce Utility Pilot Project, originally conceived by Jersey Water Works members to address industry needs, received overwhelming support from advocates, educators, the financial sector, and water companies. It was made possible by the collaboration of Bank of America (BofA), New Jersey Future, Veolia, NJ Water Association, and NJ Utility Association.

BofA provided seed funding for the initiative, while Hudson County Community College recruited applicants, delivered the curriculum, and assisted in placing graduates. Veolia, a global water company, provided instructors for water-specific courses. Veolia also welcomed the cohort for a tour at the Oak Street Facility in the City of Bayonne. NJ Utility Association and NJ Water Association played an important role in facilitating information sessions.

Michael Assante, project manager, Bayonne, Municipal Water Contract Operations, Veolia North America, commented, “I thoroughly enjoyed engaging with the student group brought together for this Water Workforce Pilot Project. It was refreshing and a little surprising to the breadth of interest and experience that the students brought to the table, and I’m very excited for the long-term potential of working with this program to establish a deep pipeline of water professionals. It has been a pleasure working with Hudson County Community College and Jersey Water Works.” Assante was also a course instructor for the first cohort.

The final session of the first Water Workforce Utility Pilot Project was held on November 7, 2023. Of the 15 students who were part of the program, 14 successfully completed it. The success of the pilot project has opened new avenues for workforce development in the water industry. Veolia met and interviewed eight participants and offered five paid internships opportunities. NJ Water Association staff, Matt Maffei, presented to the participants the apprenticeship program opportunities available in the area, and will continue to work with HCCC staff to place students in jobs or paid internships.

“It was a very informative course. I definitely learned a lot about where water comes from and where it goes after it is used. In addition, all the work that goes on behind the scenes- there is a great amount of people involved who are not seen and should get a lot of credit for their work and dedication. I am glad there are programs and opportunities like this one,” said Hugo Iglesias Gonzalez, graduate of the first cohort.

The collaborative effort has demonstrated the importance of partnerships between the private sector, educational institutions, and the government in addressing employment needs and creating opportunities for individuals. According to EPA, “as utilities make critical investments in infrastructure, drinking water and wastewater utilities should also invest in the development of a strong local workforce to strengthen communities and ensure a strong pipeline of skilled and diverse workers for today and tomorrow.”

“We are thrilled to see the first cohort graduate from the Water Workforce Pilot Project,” said Alberto Garofalo, president, Bank of America New Jersey. “Not only do the participants have a bright future ahead thanks to the eight-week training program, but so does New Jersey’s water industry as we continue to build a skilled workforce through transformational partnerships like this one.”

The Jersey Water Works Conference and Water Workforce breakout session will be held at The College of New Jersey on December 13, 2023. To learn more, click here.

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