Is California headed back into a drought? Did we ever come out? Californians spend a lot of time worrying about having enough water, but there’s another question we can’t ignore.

How can we build the pipeline of workers to ensure our water supply is reliable and safe?

This is the question that’s top of mind for water and wastewater agencies nationwide. And in 2016, JVS and BAYWORK, a consortium of Bay Area water and wastewater utilities, conducted research and produced a report to answer this and other questions that are informing the future of water jobs.

Baywork Report Water Career Pathways coverWhy JVS?

Core to its strategy, JVS identifies opportunities to train people for good, career path jobs, such as those in the water industry. As part of its services for young people, JVS exposes high school students to career paths, connects them to work experience, and helps to identify the training and education they need to move into middle class lives and stay in the Bay Area. Work experience and education support are particularly important for the JVS’s young job seekers, primarily young people of color from San Francisco’s most underserved communities.

As an example, JVS students participate in summer programming with the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. While internships and job shadowing are great ways to gain exposure, the Bay Area’s need for a more comprehensive strategy is clear. The Water and Wastewater Career Pathways report identifies alarming information, such as the impending wave of retirements of key water industry staff. There simply are not enough people ready to take the jobs that baby boomers will vacate in the coming years.

Career Pathway Shortfalls

The report focuses on nine mission-critical occupations within the water industry, examines the anticipated hiring needs and current shortfalls and identifies gaps/opportunities in the career pathways for these jobs.

Here are a few of the ways the current career pathways is not meeting the hiring needs of the water industry:

  • There is a widespread lack of awareness of the industry and trades which is limiting the pipeline of candidates.
  • There are insufficient entry-level job opportunities where candidates can get relevant work experience.
  • Tuition, fees and the income lost by taking unpaid work (i.e. internships) are major barriers for students who must support themselves and their families financially.

In 2018, JVS launched a new industry team focused on public utilities to address many of these career pathway gaps. Here are a few of the ways we’ve kicked off this work:

  • We’re helping inform the curriculum developed by Bay Area teachers by taking them on tours of water agencies.  
  • We’ve launched an automotive technician program with the City and County of San Francisco and City College San Francisco to help people build academic and work skills they need to enter apprenticeship programs.
  • We’re seeking partners in existing pre-apprenticeship programs and other community-based organizations focused on helping underrepresented job seekers secure employment in skilled trades.

Read the recommendations informing our work in the Water and Wastewater Career Pathways report.

JVS as a Convener for Better Jobs

The employment issues facing the water industry will require a multi-faceted approach to workforce development, and the report identifies the ways that water and wastewater utilities, nonprofit organizations, foundations, union, education providers, as well as state, local and national government agencies can work together to build career pathways for these skilled trades. We’ll keep you updated as we build out these opportunities in the months to come.

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