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Creating a Water and Wastewater Educational Program with Incorporated Experiential Training

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

How Are We Preparing Our Students for the 21st Century Workforce?

Tagged Division

Cooperative & Experiential Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.354.1 - 25.354.8



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Paper Authors


Joseph Lee Gutenson Western Kentucky University

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Joseph Gutenson is an Environmental Support Specialist with the Center for Water Resource Studies at Western Kentucky University. During his brief professional career he has participated in the construction of TMDL reports for the Panther Creek and Long Falls Creek Watersheds and site reconnaissance for the Bacon Creek TMDL. He has also participated in research related to the water industries workforce and serves as a presence for the Water Training Institute’s recruitment efforts.

His present work includes aiding in the creation of a software packaged, created with funding from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), that will assist drinking water utilities in decontaminating there system after a natural or intentional contamination event.

He graduated in December of 2010, magna cum laude, from Western Kentucky University with a degree in Geography, with an emphasis in Sustainable Development and a minor in Economics. Joseph is currently taking graduate coursework at Western Kentucky University.

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Jana Fattic Western Kentucky University

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Andrew N.S. Ernest Western Kentucky University

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Creating a Water and Wasterwater Educational Program with Incorporated Experiential TrainingThe EPA requires in the Final Guidelines for the Certification and Recertification of theOperators of Community and Nontransient Noncommunity Public Water Systems Notice (1999),that states and US territories establish some sort of experiential or on-the-job trainingrequirement for incumbent water or wastewater operators, before they can legally becomelicensed professionals. In fact, some states require the operator to possess an adequate amount ofexperience in real-time plant operations, in order to take the certification exam. However, manytimes utilities discover that after the duration of training has passed, the would-be operator stilldoes not hold the knowledge needed to pass the certification exam. This presents a well-definedproblem when attempting to establish a succession plan for future employment needs, an issuecurrently plaguing the water industry. A resolution of this issue will involve a training programthat seeks to model a mix of educational and experiential components which will produceprofessionals that have attained sufficient academic and operational expertise. This will requirefacilitators on each wavelength, academic and industrial, to cooperate in order to achieve thedesired outcome.One such program that is currently pursuing such a venture is the Water Training Institute(WTI). Created by funds garnered from the Advanced Technological Education (ATE) divisionof the National Science Foundation (NSF), the WTI program has sought to address thedeveloping workforce needs of the industry by providing pertinent academic training for aspiringoperators, all while striving for partnerships with both industrial and regulatory agencies. TheWTI Steering Committee, a group comprised of educational, industrial, and regulatory experts,epitomizes the necessary cooperation to develop a viable training program.A by-product of such cooperation is a grouping of individual utilities, known as UNet, whichhave agreed to provide the experiential cornerstone of the educational framework by providinginternship avenues for student within the WTI program. This service ensures that graduates ofWTI are provided the obligatory experience required for professional licensure. These utilities,in effect, become the instructors of this internship and are given the ability to grade the intern’sperformance and to provide an adequate amount of real-life experience to the intern, so thatsuccessful simulation of day-to-day operation can occur.Present day evolution of the program has continued by adapting a curricula designed to meet theneeds of those who cannot participate in traditional formats. This new format, a modular, self-paced system dissects the original format, breaking the original semester-based format intosmaller sub-sections. This grants a greater flexibility to those students that are currently workingwithin the water industry, providing another avenue for a simultaneous educational/experientialcurriculum.Interestingly, these internships have harbored not only experience for interns but have in someinstances transitioned into fulltime positions with the utilities that have provided the internship.This construct is a win-win scenario for both the utility and student, and would not be possiblewithout sufficient cooperation between all three branches comprising WTI.

Gutenson, J. L., & Fattic, J., & Ernest, A. N. (2012, June), Creating a Water and Wastewater Educational Program with Incorporated Experiential Training Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21112

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