EPA Announces Initiative to Recruit and Retain the 21st Century Water Workforce

At the virtual 2020 WEFTEC conference, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler announced the next step in EPA’s effort to help address workforce challenges that are facing America’s drinking water and wastewater utilities. The new America’s Water Sector Workforce Initiative outlines actions that the public and private sector are committing to that will help recruit and retain the next generation of the water workforce through workforce planning, technology training, and collaboration across the federal government and the water sector. These actions will support workforce resiliency for water utilities and thereby help ensure that Americans can continue relying on safe drinking water and vital wastewater services that protect public health and the environment.

“The water sector workforce provides an invaluable service to our nation—day in and day out. Their work is essential to protecting public health and the environment,” said Wheeler. “With roughly one-third of our water sector workforce eligible to retire in the next 10 years, this initiative is vital to recruiting and retaining the new water workforce for the 21st century.”

Working with federal agencies and state, local, and tribal partners, America’s Water Sector Workforce Initiative will highlight the vital work of the water workforce and will serve as a catalyst to encourage the choice of water careers through education and public outreach. The initiative reflects the Trump EPA’s commitment to ensure that our water workforce is prepared to help meet 21st century water demands while operating and maintaining our nation’s critical water infrastructure investments. The initiative includes three goals:

  1. Provide federal leadership to create national momentum and coordinate efforts.
  2. Partner to build the water workforce of the future.
  3. Bolster education and outreach to make water a career of choice.

Currently, water utilities face challenges in recruiting, training, and retaining employees. These challenges are exacerbated with roughly one-third of the water sector workforce eligible to retire in the next ten years. Additionally, as the technologies that are used in the water sector becomes more advanced (e.g., state-of-the-art water reuse technology), there is a growing need to train and employ water protection specialists with specialized technical skills.

The EPA is collaborating with several agencies—including the U.S. Department of Labor, the Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs—to coordinate expertise and resources through the Initiative. EPA will also continue to work with other essential partners across the water sector, including states and tribes, utilities and associations, and technical assistance providers.

The EPA is committed to continuing to build on the partnerships and actions identified in the initiative, and the Agency welcomes interested new partners to join in this important endeavor. To capture progress made on the initiative moving forward, EPA will convene existing and new partners biannually and will publish updates to the initiative annually. To support or join this important effort, contact [email protected] or visit epa.gov/sustainable-water-infrastructure/water-sector-workforce.

Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Want news delivered right to your inbox?

Sign up for our free newsletter, delivered every other Thursday.

Scroll to Top