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Water and Wastewater Technician Education

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

NSF Grantees' Poster Session

Tagged Topic

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.1360.1 - 23.1360.12



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Paper Authors


Jana Fattic Western Kentucky University

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Jana Fattic is the interim director of the Center for Water Resource Studies at Western Kentucky University. Jana has served in various management capacities throughout her career, spanning the private, regulatory and academic sectors. Jana has experience in drinking water and waste water treatment, storm water and watershed management, public health and safety, and solid waste management. She holds a master of science degree in Geoscience from Western Kentucky University, and conducted research for her master's thesis on ways to connect hands-on experiential components with distance learning opportunities for future water and waste water treatment operators.

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Andrew N.S. Ernest Western Kentucky University


Joseph Lee Gutenson University of Alabama

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Mr. Gutenson is currently pursuing his master's and Ph.D. in Civil/Environmental Engineering at the University of Alabama. His research interests include water resource planning and security, computer information systems, and environmental sustainability. He has worked on a variety of water-related projects including several funded by the National Science Foundation, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the National Institute for Hometown Security.

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Water and Wastewater Technician EducationThe water and wastewater industries are facing critical workforce shortfalls in the coming yearsas existing operators retire and gaps in tacit knowledge are created. According to the Bureau ofLabor Statistics’ 2012 Occupational Outlook Handbook, job prospects are expected to beexcellent for the next decade. An associate degree in Water Resource Management has beenestablished through funding from the National Science Foundation’s Advanced TechnologicalEducation (ATE) program to address these workforce needs.The degree program consists of 60 hours of academic credit, including general education, corescience requirements (mathematics, chemistry, biology, etc.) and concentration-specific coursesin water or wastewater technologies. The majority of the courses in the degree program areavailable on-line to meet the nationwide need, with the exception of the required internshipcomponent. Students are paired with a utility in their geographic area to gain hands-onexperiences required for operator licensure.This degree program was developed and refined by a Steering Committee comprised of industryrepresentatives including trade associations and utility partners, as well as government regulatoryagencies and other educational entities. These linkages ensure the degree program remainsrelevant to industry needs.Several articulation options are available to students who wish to continue their educationbeyond a 2-year degree. Students have successfully transitioned to, and completed, bachelordegrees in Technology Management and Interdisciplinary Studies. An additional avenue throughthe Systems Management 4-year degree is also being pursued.Although initially envisioned as a workforce development initiative to bring new talent into thewater industry, it was discovered that many individuals already working in this industry werealso interested in enrolling for professional development and career advancement opportunities.Therefore, many of the courses have been reviewed by state certification boards and grantedcontinuing education credits.Successes of the program include graduates who are being hired by the utilities where theyconducted their internships, students who are gaining a comprehensive knowledge of thetreatment components, infrastructure and operations of water systems, and an infusion of bothhighly-skilled technicians who understand the theory and concepts behind water operations, aswell as existing operators gaining advanced knowledge in their field.

Fattic, J., & Ernest, A. N., & Gutenson, J. L. (2013, June), Water and Wastewater Technician Education Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--22745

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