by Derek Wold & Tracy Ekola
WEFTEC is the start of a new year for the House of Delegates. Derek Wold will continue serving a final year as a WEF Delegate and incoming Delegate Tracy Ekola will start her three year term. A Delegates WEFTEC experience starts bright and early on Saturday morning with a 7 AM House of Delegates breakfast. This year, the breakfast featured Table Talk with delegates discussing the following topics:
This was a great opportunity to hear ideas from other MAs and share ideas and challenges. For example, we learned that the Kentucky and Tennessee MA changed their name to Clean Water Professionals of Kentucky & Tennessee. The common themes were that the biggest needs for MAs that WEF can assist with are to serve as an information hub for MAs, to provide membership/engagement assistance, and to prepare operator training materials.
Saturday’s meetings included reports from outgoing speaker Keith Hobson, incoming speaker Dean Miller, and incoming president Jackie Jarrell. We also had a chance to meet our new Executive Director, Walter Marlowe.
As part of the WEF Business meeting, WEF’s five Critical Objectives for the next year were introduced
All association leaders are encouraged to attend a WEFMAX to network, learn, and share experiences with other MAs. The locations for 2020 WEFMAXs have been identified as follows:
Operator training and professional development has been a frequent topic at both the local and national levels. WEF recently created a professional operator program that was introduced at WEFTEC. Information on this program follows:
Reimagine credentialing with the Professional Operator program
Two letters after a name can have a big impact on a career—just look at the RN or PE. Those designations add a level of credibility to the professional, impact their pay scale, and show they have the knowledge necessary to perform their jobs to the best of their ability.
With the support of the American Water Works Association (AWWA) and the Water Environment Federation (WEF), the Association of Boards of Certification (ABC) recognized the need for a similar designation that gives water and wastewater operators credit where credit is due.
Operators are front line protectors of human health, either through ensuring safe drinking water or the safety of waterways through effective wastewater management. They are the lifeblood of every community and deserve a way to be showcased as professionals. And so—built by operators for operators—the Professional Operator (PO) program was born.
Join a community
POs are an elite group of like-minded individuals, deeply committed to serving the public and growing in the industry. Having a supportive community for sharing industry knowledge is absolutely invaluable. The designation opens doors for international networking, connects operators with opportunities to be industry advocates, and qualifies operators to attend some fun industry events along the way.
Grow as a professional
Becoming a certified PO signals to employers that the operator is an achiever—committed to their profession long-term and ready to go above and beyond.
“I became a Professional Operator because of the chance to test my knowledge and accelerate my career,” said Brian Faist, Professional Operator in Rivergrove, Oregon. “The PO designation has made me a more appealing candidate for promotion.”
Whether looking to grow within a company or trying to find a job, being a PO makes the operator stand out in a crowd.
The PO program is the first internationally-recognized professional designation for water and wastewater operators. With the designation, peers, customers, and the public can feel confident that a Professional Operator has mastered the most rigorous standards of their vocation and industry.
“I wanted a challenge and I tackled it!” said Georginna Lockett, Professional Operator in Atlanta, Georgia. “Being a PO certifies me in the industry as a top-level operator and that has been my goal since I started in the field.”
All POs must also adhere to a code of conduct, which bolsters an operator’s reputation and builds additional community trust.
Industry adopters of the PO program are continuing to grow and it’s helping to mold an expansive future for operators.
“Broad acceptance of a standard certification can make water professional credentials portable across state or country lines,” said Paul Bishop, President and CEO of ABC. “With many benefits and potential solutions also come some challenges, but industry leaders at WEF, AWWA, and ABC are up to the task.”
The PO program is a great leap toward an industry credential standard. It includes uniform and transparent credentialing that is recognizable by any employer or certification body.
Begin your journey
PO certification is offered to operators in four levels (from Class I through Class IV) for water treatment, water distribution, wastewater collection, and wastewater treatment. Joining the PO movement is simple and the entire process can take as little as a few weeks.
Step 1: Create an Online Profile
The path to becoming a PO starts by creating a profile at portal.abccert.org. An operator will be asked to add information like work history and education.
Step 2: Submit an Application
The operator submits an application and ABC reviews the operator’s profile to ensure basic criteria have been met. Applications are accepted from anywhere in the world, any day of the year.
Step 3: The Exam
In some cases, operators may have already passed a certification exam that ABC will accept. If not, the operator will schedule a time to take an ABC certification exam. Once the exam is passed, the operator will receive a certificate, be invited to a POWER event to be formally recognized, and join the PO community.
For questions or additional information, please visit ProfessionalOperator.org or email directly at Info@ProfessionalOperator.org.
Footer/Sub-note: The PO program is administered by the Certification Commission for Environmental Professionals (C2EP), an organization of volunteer water environment operations subject matter experts created by the Association of Boards of Certification (ABC).
Graphics of Brian and Georginna at a POWER event (quoted POs):