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Vets Continue Service Through Local Water and Wastewater Utilities

Washington, DC (PRWEB) November 12, 2013

With an understanding of new approaches to sustainability technologies practices that have become pervasive throughout the branches of the military, veterans have become a valuable resource for the water sector - as employees, as contractors and entrepreneurs, as board members.

For many veterans, leaving the armed services provides opportunities for continued service to their country through their water and wastewater utilities.

During November – which is Warrior Care Month - Water Citizen News takes a look at the many ways in which veterans continue to serve in the Water Community.

A Call to Service in the Water Workforce

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, more than one-third of all current water operators are eligible to retire within seven years and employment for water and wastewater operators is expected to grow by 20 percent between 2008 and 2018 - faster than the national average for all other occupations.

To address both the need for "water workforce development" and for jobs for returning veterans (more than 16,000/year expected over the next five years), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program launched a joint initiative in 2012 to connect veterans with disabilities to career opportunities in the water and wastewater sectors -- such as at wastewater plants and drinking water facilities -- as part of EPA’s Water Sector Workforce Initiative.

The agreement allows EPA and VA to connect qualified veteran employees with staffing needs at water and wastewater utilities. EPA and the VA will work with water utilities, states and local VA counselors to promote water sector careers and resources for finding water jobs for veterans as well as educational programs to help veterans transition into careers in water industries.

On May 29, 2012, when the EPA-VA "Memorandum of Understanding" was signed, EPA's Acting Assistant Administrator for Water, Nancy Stoner, stated, “This agreement comes at the perfect time to address the predicted workforce shortages in the water and wastewater industries and the need for transitioning veterans into civilian jobs."

Stoner continued, “EPA believes that well-trained and experienced water sector professionals are vital to ensuring sustainable, properly operated systems.”

VA’s Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program assists more than 100,000 disabled veterans annually prepare for, find, and maintain meaningful careers. Veterans are an important target group for water and wastewater utility jobs because many veterans already possess training and technical skills that are directly transferable to careers in the water sector.

There is a wide spectrum of water sector careers that veterans could be qualified for, including engineering, laboratory and water science, operations and maintenance, management and administration, communications, and public education. The Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program further supports veterans for the water workforce by providing necessary accommodations and additional training as needed.

“VA has cultivated relationships with both public and private industry to ensure disabled veterans have opportunities to find and maintain meaningful employment,” said Under Secretary for Benefits Allison A. Hickey.

“We are thrilled to forge this relationship with EPA to assist them with hiring veterans through our Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program.”

As a result of this program, Angela Wilcher, the VA's National Employment Program Manager, has become a fixture at most major water and wastewater utility conferences, with presentations and exhibits available to address questions about the VetSuccess.Gov program, along with representatives from state and local agencies, water and wastewater utilities, and their associations.

For Katie McCain, former president of the American Water Works Association, this program has become a major focus of her continued service to the water utility industry.

Hiring Wounded Warriors

Water and wastewater utilities have increasing resources to support hiring of veterans through the VA and related programs - as well as to address questions and concerns about potential veteran employees. Resources on hiring vets have often been released during November - which was designated as "Warrior Care Month" by then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates in 2008.

Cmdr. Dante Terronez, Naval District Washington regional director of the Navy Wounded Warrior (NWW) Safe Harbor Program, describes Warrior Care Month as "a joint-service event that recognizes wounded warriors, as well as those who care for them, for their service, sacrifices and achievements."

Terronez continues, "It also is an opportunity to raise awareness of the resources available to service members should illness or injury strike unexpectedly."

The Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) at Syracuse University conducted research on the "reasons to hire" veterans, producing a report entitled The Business Case for Hiring a Veteran: Beyond the Clichés. Their findings on hiring of veterans in a competitive business environment included:

  •     Veterans are entrepreneurial
  •     Veterans assume high levels of trust
  •     Veterans are adept at transferring skills across contexts/tasks
  •     Veterans have advanced technical training
  •     Veterans can adapt to discontinuous environments
  •     Veterans exhibit high levels of resilience
  •     Veterans exhibit advanced team-building skills
  •     Veterans exhibit strong organizational commitment
  •     Veterans leverage cross-cultural experiences
  •     Veterans have experience in diverse work-settings

Like other employers, however, water and wastewater utilities may have questions and concerns about hiring veterans. Research was recently conducted by the Society of Human Resource Management revealed three key obstacles impacting veteran employment. In 2012, the Army unveiled its “Hire a Veteran” education campaign, in conjunction with the Society of Human Resource Management, to debunk these roadblocks, providing a 10-minute informational video and online employer toolkit that can be found at

Vets Step Up to Serve on Water Boards

Veterans have often stepped up to serve on their local water and wastewater utility boards, including Selma's Reverend Lee Goodwin (shown) and former DC Water Board Member Adam Clampitt, who also heads a veteran-owned communications firm.

"Vetrepreneurs" Provide Services to Water and Wastewater Utility

Working with water and wastewater utilities can provide tremendous opportunities for entrepreneurs to build businesses with a reliable customer providing steady business. Regardless of the ups and downs of the economy, water and wastewater utilities stick around - and continue to require the services of contractors, with disabled veteran owned businesses getting an edge in those contracts.

How do veterans make the transition to become "vetrepreneurs"?

One way is by working with someone like Deanna Wharwood - known as "the Veterans Coach," she consults with, mentors, trains and coaches active duty, veterans and military spouses who choose to transition from military life to their dream life either by getting a great job they love or starting their own small business.

Wharwood is a veteran herself who lived within the military community for many years (as a dependent daughter, on active duty for over ten years, and as a dependent wife), and successfully transitioned from military life entrepreneurship.

Says Wharwood, "In many ways, running your own business is like taking the best of your military experiences and putting them to good use."

Wharwood points out that veteran-owned businesses are a critical resource for water and wastewater utilities to consider for their contracting needs.

"Veteran-owned businesses are the fastest-growing segment of the population starting businesses. We have a 68.1% success rate over the course of 10 years."

Veterans Serving Water in Many Capacities

Whether it is as an employee, as a board member, or as a contractor, veterans have found many ways in which to continue their service to country at a local level through their water and wastewater utilities.

For more information, see http://www.watercitizennews.

Byline: Dr. Cat Shrier, Publisher/Editor, WaterCitizenNews.Com, Founder, The Water Citizen Network. Some materials from EPA Water Workforce Development press release.

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