The Future of (Water) Work

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.

Sean, Carpenters Local 22

Sean knew from a young age that he wanted to work with his hands. He had spent countless hours learning from his father and helping his family’s curtain installation business in San Francisco. School didn’t interest him much, and skipping classes were the norm during his early high school days. He and his friends kept getting into trouble, and he knew that if things didn’t change soon, he would end up in Juvenile Hall or even worse.

JVS was there for Sean at the right time and the right place. Through a JVS program at John O’Connell High School, Sean was able to graduate high school and turn his love for carpentry into a promising career path. At age 19, Sean is a union Apprentice Carpenter at the Historic Pier 70 Project, where his skilled work in restoring antique windows is playing an important part in the transformation of the city’s landscape.

“My path was not straight and narrow. JVS opened doors for me and helped me figure out each step. I’m grateful to have a career that allows me to pay my bills and help my parents.” – Sean

A Job Well-Done – JVS Youth Speech

Some lessons are straight-forward and tangible, and others are more difficult to instill – like knowing the value of a job well-done.

Rae proudly delivered the following speech at the completion of his high school summer internship last year. The feelings of accomplishment, pride and teamwork that he felt on his internship will drive his work ethic in both work and school for years to come — attractive qualities to any employer!


Good afternoon, everyone! I would like to speak to you about my summer job experience at the Bay Area Video Coalition. First of all, the Bay Area Video Coalition is a major hub for broadcasted media throughout the Bay Area. People go there to take classes about making movies, working with social media, or they go there to run the public broadcasting channel, among many other things.

However, my task there was much different than the other jobs people worked. I was assigned to the financial office. There, my help was needed to make all of their paperwork physically ready to be scanned and processed into digital files. To do that, I removed staples, grouped together paper with paper clips, and made copies of check stubs and receipts for what may have been hundreds of papers!

To anyone else, this might sounds like an arduous and even tedious task to do from day to day. But despite all of that, I had absolutely no problems with my job.

For me, it was all a simple matter of doing my job as best as I can, so that those who work with the papers afterwards can rest easy, knowing the hard part had been done for them.

 I went into work every day with a sense of personal pride and accomplishment, because I knew from the first day that it was an important responsibility to attend to. And I left my workplace every day feeling proud to have been able to do a job well done.

My experience at the BAVC financial office has taught me to be committed to working efficiently. To do that, I must be patient. And to do that, I must value my place in the overall team. I was aware the whole time that even a duty as modest as removing staples can have a very big impact for my co-workers.

I thank everyone for the opportunities they have given me, and I wish my co-workers good luck for the future.

I am glad to have been of service to you. Thank you.