West Valley Water District, SB Valley College sign agreement to support water technology, engineering program

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Photo WVWD: The partnership will support an extraordinary academic and work experience that will deliver more stable, higher-paying jobs to the Inland Empire. From left: SBVC President Diana Rodriguez, SBVCC Vice-Chair Dr. Stephanie Houston, WVWD President Dr. Channing Hawkins, and WVWD Director Dr. Michael Taylor.
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Working together to provide an extraordinary academic and work experience that will deliver stable, higher-paying jobs to the Inland Empire, today West Valley Water District (WVWD) Board of Directors President Channing Hawkins and San Bernardino Valley Community College (SBVCC) President Diana Rodriguez signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to create paid or non-paid and part-time or full-time internships and jobs.

WVWD Board President Channing Hawkins said, “Through this partnership, our combined efforts will provide skills, training, and job placement in a steady, growing field to the people of the Inland Empire. With our community still reeling from the coronavirus lockdowns and still 639,000 jobs short of pre-COVID employment, this program could not have come at a better time for the Inland Empire.

Amid rising unemployment and in anticipation of water utility talent pipeline shortfalls due to coming retirements, leaders with WVWD and SBVCC Vice-Chair Dr. Stephanie Houston attended the signing that solidified the agreement and relationship that will deliver mentorship, job training and job opportunities for the region’s residents. The program will coincide with the fall, spring and summer academic terms at SBVC. WVWD will provide supervision and both practical and intellectual support and instruction for aspiring water technology and engineering professionals. SBVC will provide program instruction and promotions for water supply technology courses that align with industry needs and correspond with the SBVCC academic calendar.

WVWD Director Dr. Michael Taylor, Chair of the Human Resources Committee, stated, “This jobs agreement will pave the way to fillings hundreds of anticipated vacancies as professionals in the water industry retire. We want people to know there is opportunity for employment right here in their own community that does not require a degree. I look forward to expanding on this program with neighboring water districts throughout the Inland Empire as this is an opportunity for all of us to better secure and strengthen our future workforce.”

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According to a recent news report, Southern California remains 639,300 jobs short of pre-coronavirus employment, which means that a lack of jobs is hitting our community hard. At the same time, a Brookings Institute Metropolitan Program study has demonstrated that a “silver tide” of retirements is drastically cutting into the pool of skilled and qualified workers in many utilities, resulting in staffing vacancies of up to 50 percent. The study also stresses an underrepresentation of women and lack of diversity in the water workforce and highlights the fact that more than 72 percent of workers in water utilities are white. With nearly 70% of ratepayers identifying as Hispanic (according to U.S. Census and ESRI data), WVWD aspires to have a workforce better representative of the people it serves. However, even while jobs are in high demand, a number of water positions remain vacant due to a lack of personnel with the requisite specialty training in water resources operations and management.

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