Catherine Curtis – SFPUC
As President of BAYWORK it is a great honor to work with the BAYWORK leadership team to implement our transition to a non-profit status and BAYWORK initiatives this fiscal year. Our first board meeting was August 4. Being an official non-profit will enable us for the first time to apply for grants and accept contributions directly.
The COVID-19 Pandemic has interrupted our in-person events, but we have every confidence that we will become as good at live, virtual events as we were with in-person events. Investment in online platforms and tools to help us reach this goal is in our budget. The most important thing is for everyone to be safe and well during this pandemic.
Among our many initiatives this fiscal year we will work on regional training programs for apprenticeships and internships, as well as participating in virtual career fairs. We are focusing on women in the trades, military veterans, and teacher externships. Already we have partnered with colleges to provide mock interviews for students interested in the careers in the water industry.
For Staff Preparedness, we will deliver live webinars, zoom events, a virtual WOW (Workshop on Wheels), a virtual Training Buffet, and will partner with Bay Area Consortium of Water and Wastewater Education (BACWWE) to offer operator certification classes. We are also focusing on the workforce implications of new digital tools coming into our industry (see article below).
We rolled out a newly-designed and responsive website in September that has many new features including a veteran’s page, a membership button outlining the three types of BAYWORK memberships, a map with all the BAYWORK signatories, easier search features, and so much more. In alignment with our new website we have assembled a team to manage our social media platforms, led by Alexandra Bradley of Zone 7 Water and Mera Burton of Valley Water.
If you have anything you want to announce on social media, such a job announcement or an event at your utility, you can reach out to our team by emailing us at [email protected]
Finally, we are in the process of recruiting people for committees and work groups. 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 one of our committees.
Thank you for your involvement and/or partnership with BAYWORK!
– by Michael Kushner (BAYWORK)
This summer 48 middle and high school teachers explored the world of water and wastewater through BAYWORK programs designed to reach K-12 students with information about water careers. We initially (before COVID-19) planned to have a day-long Workshop on Wheels (WOW) for teachers, in which they would travel on a bus to several different agencies to see and hear about the work. With an in-person event no longer possible, we shifted to a virtual live environment. Our new WOW (Wonders of Wastewater) was hosted by Central San, EBMUD, Valley Water, and Sonoma Water. The day was split into an overview of the wastewater treatment process and its history, followed by small breakout sessions where each teacher could learn more about an individual agency. The teachers’ response was overwhelmingly positive. Recordings of the online sessions can be viewed here.
In the last week of July, ten teachers took a deeper dive into the world of water, participating in a week-long externship, hosted online by Valley Water. Teachers spent part of their day hearing presentations and discussing how work in our industry utilizes the skills they are teaching. They also learned from Valley Water staff about great careers available to students who might not be on-track to get a 4-year college degree. In the afternoon teachers developed curriculum ideas based on what they had learned. The week was organized, and the curriculum development facilitated, by our partners at Ignited, a non-profit that brings together teachers and industry to raise students’ career awareness. You can see curriculum developed through previous teacher externships here and a short video about this year’s event is found here. Many thanks to the Valley Water Education Outreach team for the outstanding job they did in providing teachers with an engaging experience.
“…the personal impact that this program has had on me – being able to hear information and content that I hadn’t heard before about water systems, water purification and oxygenation… It wasn’t delivered in an overwhelming way.” – Shari Corbett, teacher – Andrew P. Hill High School
Both of these events received financial support from our partners at Jewish Vocational Service through a grant from the state’s High Road Training Partnership program.
– by Kory Loucks-Powell (BAYWORK)
Water and Wastewater utilities’ staff in the North Bay are no strangers to emergency preparedness – whether it’s wildfires, rolling power shut-offs, earthquakes, floods, landslides, and now, the fallout from the COVID-19 Pandemic that is sweeping the world and shows few signs of abating here.
As essential workers, the jobs of keeping drinking water, processing wastewater, and wastewater collections never stops, and our North Bay agencies’ staff – those unseen, everyday heroes – are clearly up to the challenge. The webinar attracted 64 participants from the Bay Region.
Kevin Booker, Water Agency Principal Engineer with Sonoma Water, facilitated the webinar on June 25. “Our goal is to have different agencies of different sizes show their experiences,” Booker said of the webinar, “so hopefully we can help other agencies deal with this unprecedented time.”
David Ernst, Wastewater Superintendent at the Town of Windsor; Steven Hancock, Emergency Response Manager with Sonoma Water; Stephen Miksis, Operations and Maintenance Manager with Ross Valley Sanitary District; and Heather Abrams, General Manager with Tamalpais Community Services District presented their challenges and successes with the ongoing pandemic.
With many North Bay residents working from home, Stephen Miksis said his essential collections workers in the field devised creative strategies to keep curious onlookers at a safe distance, such as signs on top of their safety cones requesting people keep a safe six-foot distance from them.
“We came up with all kinds of stickers for our trucks and designs for our ‘fan-danas,’ and social media,” he added.
As a small community in a town of about 10,000, Heather Abrams said that Tamalpais Community Services District’s employees are also no strangers to natural disasters and recognized immediately the need for personal protective equipment supplies (PPE.) “COVID-19 has really required us to make sure we have supplies of PPE,” she said. “I would advise you to keep minimal PPE at all times.”
The Town of Windsor is also a small community with six operators.
David Ernst observed that the Kincade Fire in October 2019 in many ways helped them prepare for this pandemic, including learning to work remotely for some and having adequate PPE supplies on hand.
Sonoma Water produces wholesale drinking Water for about 600,000 people in the Sonoma and Marin counties and has flood control responsibilities for Sonoma County.
“As everyone knows the pandemic spread pretty quickly,” said Steven Hancock, Emergency Response Manager at Sonoma Water. “We really need to put an emphasis on keeping everyone engaged.
“I think everyone can appreciate the scale of this,” Hancock added. “It is a total disruption on every aspect of our lives.” With all the looming disasters in their area, Sonoma Water was “absolutely integrated with the EOC [County Emergency Operations Center],” he said.
Feedback from participants was unanimously positive, with comments such as, “I was impressed by the webinar. It was all useful information and was good to see that similar agencies had many of the same problems, issues, and concerns. “
Another participant summed up what others said: “What I like the most is hearing how other city and counties are dealing and coping with COVID-19. I gathered some useful information that I could forward to my crew. Thank you.”
To view the webinar, visit our BAYWORK website on our Past Events page.
– by Michael Kushner (BAYWORK Manager)
These days, utilities are introducing increasingly sophisticated digital tools including the use of systems integration and artificial intelligence. The digitalization of the water sector has big implications for the workforce and including workforce considerations can make or break a new digital project.
BAYWORK has been paying special attention to this issue of the digital worker for over a year now. We have presented at two national conferences, surveyed our membership, and held focus groups with individual utilities. 2020 will be the year of the Digital Worker for BAYWORK. We plan to put out a White Paper on the Digital Worker this winter and hold a major conference in the spring. We have brought back BAYWORK founder Cheryl Davis to help lead this work and she has helped put together an advisory committee that draws on leaders in this field throughout the country. Stay tuned…
– by Kory Loucks-Powell (BAYWORK)
Rocky Padilla, BAYWORK Veterans work group lead, wants every military veteran in the Bay Area to know that there are rewarding water industry careers that vets are well-suited to succeed.
When growing up, Padilla never heard of water sector jobs. “Never in my early years did a place like wastewater treatment interest me,” said Padilla. “Why? Because no one ever mentioned wastewater. This type of work was nonexistent to me.”
One day he was driving by the San Jose Santa Clara Valley Regional Wastewater Facility in San Jose and applied for a job. The rest, as they say, is history. For Padilla, it has turned into a rewarding and interesting career where he has worked for 15 years, now as the Mechanical Superintendent. Today he wants other vets who are looking for good, stable jobs to consider the water sector.
Ted Lam, Maintenance Supervisor with East Bay Municipal Utility District and BAYWORK Veterans Subcommittee member, agreed. “I’m very happy – I’ve made the job my own.”
Skills that developed from Lam’s background in the military, first in the Army and then with the Coast Guard, include consistency, perseverance, and organization. “Getting into this field is challenging and I’ve heard it takes many tries, but it’s worth pursuing until you get that first job in the water industry,” Lam said.
While Rocky and Ted have diverse military backgrounds, they have found rewarding and fulfilling water industry careers. Now they want to help other veterans find the same meaningful work in the Bay Area in water or wastewater.
Other members of our Veterans Work Group include Steve Twitchell with Valley Water, Levi Fuller and Michelle Gallardo with DSRSD, Eric Hovland with the City of San Jose, and Chris Franzel with the SFPUC. If you are a military veteran working in the water or wastewater industry and would like to be part of this work group, contact us at sfbaywork2011.org.
– by Michael Kushner (BAYWORK)
BAYWORK has had social media accounts for a while, but no one person to consistently managing them. That all changed this spring when BAYWORK formed a Social Media Work Group led by Alexandra Bradley with Zone 7 Water and Mera Burton with Valley Water. They created a social media plan this summer and hired consultant Bonnie Betts to manage our BAYWORK accounts.
If your utility, school, or professional organization has information you would like us to share on our social platforms, please email Bonnie at:
– by Pamela Murawski (California State University, Sacramento & BAYWORK Women in Trades Work Group Lead)
Even as many women have advanced in traditionally male-dominated fields such as medicine, business, and politics, blue-collar trades still fail to attract a significant female workforce. This field offers higher wages and more advancement than many traditionally female-dominated fields and yet it is estimated that three million jobs in skilled trades will go unfilled by 2028. To bridge these gaps, the BAYWORK Women in Trades Work Group seeks to forge pathways that attract, recruit, retain, and advance women in skilled trades.
Organized in early 2020, we are a collaboration among utilities, education and training providers, and industry experts who are interested in helping women pick up power tools, enjoy satisfying work, and open up opportunities for a variety of workers in the skilled trades while ensuring that these important jobs are filled into the future. The group is collecting baseline data on women who are employed in trades by BAYWORK Signatory member agencies. The group also aims to develop strategies to raise the profile of women in the skilled trades in collaboration with the BAYWORK social media and website committees.
Our work group’s future plans include connecting women with mentors in the field and developing collaborative efforts to identify, train, and hire women with other industries who have similar workforce challenges. The group meets twice a month, and anyone interested in the topic is invited to join. Contact us at: [email protected].
– by Steven Currie (EBMUD & BAYWORK CDO Co-Chair)
Approximately 70 diverse jobseekers from across the Bay Area (and beyond) participated in Career Bytes Bay Area Water/Wastewater Employers Spotlight on June 4. The success of this event, coordinated through BAYWORK in collaboration with Ohlone College, Mission College, and local workforce boards in the South Bay and East Bay, kick-started a new BAYWORK Candidate Development & Outreach initiative focused on engagement through virtual/ online events. Since this initial event, BAYWORK has engaged in three more virtual career events, and so far has engaged about 300 jobseekers.
With COVID-19 related cancellation of in-person events, this focus on virtual/ on-line events allows us to continue to do effective outreach to a broad set of candidates. People have been very excited to log-on to learn about getting connected to career opportunities in the local water and wastewater industry.
Special thanks to BAYWORK Manager, Michael Kushner, for his role presenting at many of these events as well as recruiting representatives from BAYWORK signatory efforts to support these efforts. This has included representatives from City of San Jose, Dublin San Ramon Services District, EBMUD, SFPUC, Silicon Valley Clean Water, Valley Water, and Zone 7 Water Agency.
If you or your agency are interested in helping to coordinate or participate in a future virtual live BAYWORK event, please contact Michael Kushner at [email protected].
BAYWORK became a corporation on July 2. Although we are not a Fortune 500 company and never will be, this is an important change for us: It is the first step in becoming a 501.c.3 tax-exempt non-profit. Once we have attained that status it will be much easier to apply for grants to support our work. Becoming a non-profit corporation has also helped us make some structural and process changes that will make BAYWORK a stronger organization, including the creation an elected Board of Directors and the adoption of new Bylaws; however, the basic nature of BAYWORK has not changed. We are still “owned” by the utilities that are our Signatory members and we will continue to rely primarily on the voluntary efforts of those Signatory members’ employees who do the day-to-day work.
One of our new BAYWORK signatory members, Castro Valley Sanitary District’s (CVSan) General Manager, Roland Williams, has recently been elected to serve his fourth consecutive two-year term as President of the Alameda County Chapter of the California Special Districts Association (ACSDA).
Congratulations GM Williams. For more information, visit CVSan’s website here.
Welcome to our new signatories: