Catherine Curtis – SFPUC
The Coronavirus outbreak and the “Shelter in Place” order that the Bay Area now finds itself in has been an adjustment for all of us. The most important actions we can take are to stay safe and protect ourselves, our families and our communities. WEF has webinars and updated water specific information at this link: https://www.wef.org/news-hub/current-priorities/coronavirus/, as does AWWA at https://www.awwa.org/Resources-Tools/Resource-Topics/Coronavirus
To support our BAYWORK signatories during this transition time, BAYWORK leadership is shifting our live events that were planned through the Fiscal Year 19-20 to webinars and exploring setting up online workshops to replace the live events that we have had to cancel. For those working from home, you can still access training and get CE credits. Please visit our website at baywork.org for up to date information.
On other fronts, BAYWORK attended the Utility Management Conference in February and delivered a full day workshop on The Digital Worker. We had speakers from EBMUD, SFPUC, Valley Water, and San Jose Water. Our JVS partners joined us and we had valuable discussion in the breakout groups. BAYWORK is committed to ongoing engagement around the issue of the increased use of digital technology and the new demands it places on our workforce. We will partner with the Water Research Foundation on their project on “How to be a Digital Utility and the Framework for an Intelligent Water System”. Our own Digital Worker workshop, originally planned for May, will be rescheduled later in the year.
BAYWORK is in the midst of a major initiative to redesign our website. The new website will have a more up to date look, be easier to navigate and will display properly on all digital platforms. We are also planning to add a veterans’ page. Expect the new website to launch this summer, with additional improvements in the coming year. Paired with our website we are preparing to take better advantage of social media. I have convened a social media work group and hope to make this a significant initiative in the coming year.
Finally, I would like you all to join me in welcoming our new signatories: Fairfield-Suisun Sewer District, Silicon Valley Clean Water, and the City of Pittsburg. We are in active discussion with three additional utilities and hope to welcome them into BAYWORK. If you know of any agencies that would like to join us, please have them email our BAYWORK Manager, Michael Kushner, at [email protected]
We are still in the process of recruiting people for committees and subcommittees. BAYWORK has been a grass roots organization and we survive on in-kind services. If you are interested in being part of the planning and making sure your utility’s voice is heard, please join a committee by contacting the chair.
Prepared Staff Committee [training for existing staff]– Levi Fuller ([email protected])
Website Committee –Stan Blaauw ([email protected])
– by Pamela Astarte (SFPUC)
Our latest Water and Wastewater Operator Exam Preparation was held on March 4, 2020 at the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC). This session focused on Grades 4 and 5, with separate tracks for water treatment, water distribution and wastewater treatment. The three subject areas were all very well attended, with wastewater having the greatest number of participants. We had 59 participants, including 16 who joined online from SFPUC’s Harry Tracy and Sunol Water Treatment Plants.
The day of training was presented through a collaboration between the Bay Area Consortium for Water and Wastewater Education (BACWWE) and BAYWORK. In addition to providing a valuable training experience, we hope that this collaboration may serve as a model for future joint efforts. We want to recognize the efforts of the 11 instructors drawn from a number of bay area utilities. These instructors all donate their time to help the up-and-coming workforce get the knowledge they need to excel. Thank you! Special thanks also to BACWWE for providing much appreciated food for this workshop.
For the first time, thanks in large part to Sue Tensfeldt and her IT colleagues at SFPUC, we were able to broadcast the workshops to two off-site locations. Bay area traffic being what it is, and considering the geographic growth of BAYWORK, this is something we will definitely be considering for future events.
Participant evaluations showed appreciation for such in-depth preparation, taught by seasoned instructors from the field. Written materials from the workshops have been posted on the BAYWORK website and have been our most visited pages in the weeks following the training.
“BAYWORK is a wonderful organization that provides utility operators and professionals an opportunity to collaborate and learn from some of the industry’s top experts in the areas of water treatment, distribution and wastewater.”
– Ryan Gabriel, SFPUC
– by Michael Kushner (BAYWORK Manager)
On February 7, 2020 more than 250 high school students from 10 schools in Oakland and San Leandro attended a skilled trades career event at Cypress Mandela Training Center in Oakland. Along with a number of major employers and trade unions, BAYWORK was there. East Bay Municipal Utilities District (EBMUD) and Ross Valley Sanitary District each had multiple demonstration stations that allowed youth to try their hands at using the tools of the trade. For those who were inspired by the experience, BAYWORK had a table offering information about how to prepare for jobs in the water sector. At one of the EBMUD stations students got to use a jackhammer and drill a hole in pipe with a power drill. Ross Valley let attendees pilot a robotic CCTV device through a pipeline with obstacles.
The level of engagement of these students was dramatically greater than at career fairs that lack the hands-on component. According to Steven Currie (EBMUD and Co-Chair of BAYWORK Candidate Development Committee), this is the model we ought to use in our future career events for youth. “You engaged our students,” said Emiliano Sanchez from Oakland Unified School District. “Bringing tools and equipment, you gave our scholars a feel and taste of the valuable work you do. Our students and staff were truly appreciative of the event and it only happens when we have partners like you and your organization.”
– by Michael Kushner (BAYWORK Manager)
As BAYWORK and our partners at JVS begin to develop our own candidate training programs, we are eager to learn from the experience of water utilities in other regions. On January 21, 2020 Sherri Jones, Workforce Development Specialist at Charlotte Water, led a BAYWORK webinar describing the outstanding work being done by her utility to train community members for jobs in the water workforce of the future. Charlotte Water is a department with about 1,000 employees, a third of them eligible to retire in the next 3 years. For them, apprenticeship and internship are an important strategy to ensure that the knowledge acquired by senior employees is passed down.
They began with a registered apprenticeship program in 2018. The occupation selected for the first apprenticeship was an entry-level Utility Worker I position. The program started small with 5 apprentices. Extensive soft skills training and on-the-job mentorship are key components of the apprenticeship. All of their graduates were hired at the conclusion of the program and, after 1 year, all have promoted to Utility Worker II.
In addition, a structured internship program was instituted in 2019. Internship was developed for units that were not ready for a full apprenticeship, often because they did not anticipate having any open positions for apprentices to fill. Nonetheless, the program aims went well beyond giving individuals some exposure to the industry. The goal was to give them the general job skills needed to be hired into entry-level jobs, if not in the unit where they trained, then elsewhere in Charlotte Water or in the broader city government. In the end, all 9 graduates found regular employment with Charlotte Water.
The Charlotte Water programs are designed not only to ensure workforce reliability, but also to bring greater diversity to their workforce. To that end, they worked closely with workforce boards and community organizations to reach people from under-represented groups.
Clearly, a key component of the success at Charlotte Water has been executive sponsorship and the resulting willingness to commit resources. It is an investment that is already paying dividends.
To see a recording of the webinar, go to the Resources page of the BAYWORK website.
– by Michael Kushner (BAYWORK)
In early March BAYWORK’s partners at JVS were all set to launch their first pre-apprenticeship program for the water sector. Then came the COVID-19 pandemic. The program was to include 9 weeks of classroom instruction at Laney College and 7 weeks of on-the-job training (OJT) at BAYWORK signatory agencies. JVS staff postponed the start of the program by a week and shifted all of the instruction to an online platform – no simple task. With OJT off the table BAYWORK began recruiting mentors from among the agencies’ maintenance and operations staff. The mentors will have a few conversations with their mentees, by Zoom or phone, talking about their work and how the student might prepare for a similar career. We have 17 students moving forward in the program, of whom 6 are women. JVS made a special effort to recruit women and people from communities under-represented in the trades. Many thanks to Mario Flores and Betty Szudy at JVS for not letting a mere pandemic prevent them from providing opportunities to those wanting to enter the water workforce.
BAYWORK is still in need of mentors. If you or someone you know would be willing to spend 4-5 hours over two months (starting mid-May) helping the next generation of water employees, please contact Michael Kushner at [email protected].
BAYWORK has canceled all events originally planned for April through June. We are working hard to develop a series of live webinars and online workshops for May and June. Please check our website at baywork.org for up to date information.