NEW ORLEANS, LA – Today, Mayor Mitch Landrieu announced a partnership between Delgado Community College, the Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans (S&WB) and the JOB1 Business and Career Solutions Center to launch a worker training program aimed at increasing the pool of certified water and wastewater treatment personnel to meet the S&WB anticipated demand for workers to repair the city’s aging infrastructure.
“A well-trained and qualified workforce is crucial as we move forward with the essential repairs on the system responsible for making sure our citizens have clean, safe drinking water and our homes are protected from flooding,” said Mayor Landrieu. “I applaud Delgado for stepping up to the plate to help develop a training program that will ensure we have a pool of workers prepared to take on this important work.”
Facing a pressing need to repair the city’s network of underground water and sewer pipes and other infrastructure, officials are considering a S&WB rate proposal that raise the local funds necessary to leverage federal funding for a $3.3 billion capital improvement program with over 600 projects. The $3.3 billion program will support nearly 27,000 construction and 186 permanent S&WB jobs over the next 10 years.
Additionally, it is expected that many new workers will be needed to fill positions because of an aging S&WB workforce, where approximately 30 percent of employees are eligible for retirement. Hundreds of the new jobs created will require water and wastewater certifications.
Delgado has developed a water and wastewater operator certification training program and a civil service test preparation program that are expected to begin in early 2013. Additionally, Delgado will apply to become a certification testing site with the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, which administers the process of certifying water and wastewater treatment operators. Currently, the closest certification testing site is in Baton Rouge.
The certification training program, designed to prepare water and wastewater personnel for state certification requirements, will require 32 hours of classroom instruction, or four 8-hour sessions. Delgado will offer four classes of certification training in five categories: water production, water distribution, water treatment, wastewater collection and wastewater treatment.
Delgado has also developed a civil service test preparation program to prepare potential employees for the examination required of S&WB classified employees.
“We commend the City and Mayor Landrieu for this substantial investment that the City of New Orleans is making, not only in the physical systems but also a notable investment in the human capital that will operate those systems,” said Delgado Chancellor Dr. Monty Sullivan. “Delgado is excited to extend our partnership with the city in addressing the workforce needs of the Sewerage and Water Board.”
S&WB Executive Director Marcia St. Martin said, “As we look to fill future positions, we’re faced with a severe shortage of certified water and wastewater treatment workers. This training program will help ensure that our local workforce can receive the training they need to be competitive.”
The certification training program costs are being finalized. For current S&WB employees seeking certification, costs will be covered by the S&WB’s tuition reimbursement program.
JOB1 Business and Career Solutions Center, a division of the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development, has funding available to cover the costs of about 100 residents who will be recruited for the certification program through local agencies and organizations.
To recruit candidates for the program, JOB1 will work with community partners, including the Youth Empowerment Program, Job Corps New Orleans, Juvenile Regional Services (JRS), Urban Strategies, and others.
Michael Hecht, President and CEO of Greater New Orleans, Inc. said, “This partnership between Delgado, JOB1, and the Sewerage and Water Board is critical for two reasons. First, we know that businesses are going to locate in New Orleans, which has been just named the fastest improving economy in the entire country, because the opportunity exists for them to do so safely and with security. There is no greater enemy to business than uncertainty, and uncertainty about infrastructure is a paramount issue, so we are thrilled that this work is going forward. The second reason is that there is also an inherent jobs opportunity. Here in Greater New Orleans, we know we can master living with water, which will provide us with an opportunity to export our expertise around the nation and world, as they will look to us as those individuals who have the best intellectual properties, best technology, and best companies that know how to manage water. Long term, it’s not only about making our region safe, it’s about making it economically profitable and creating jobs.”
“In addition to the permanent jobs and opportunities in wastewater management with the Sewerage & Water Board, there will be a huge opportunity and demand in the private sector for workers with these certifications for numerous related construction projects,” Mayor Landrieu closed. “Quite simply, we have real jobs and workforce development opportunities with this current rate proposal.”
Currently, S&WB has 239 employees who require certification in waste water treatment, and it is expected that approximately 300 new employees will require certification over the next several years due to attrition and new hiring for upcoming infrastructure investments in New Orleans. Private contractors working on the capital improvement program will also require workers with these certifications.