News May 28, 2024

Wastewater 101: Jacobs Takes to the Classroom to Tackle Staffing and Qualification Shortages

Operations and maintenance staff establish unique educational opportunity to create a potential future workforce

Students in classroom

A silver tsunami is wreaking havoc on the water and wastewater industry. The baby boomer generation makes up a large demographic of the water and wastewater industry, but with their impending retirement, utilities industry-wide are facing labor shortages and knowledge gaps.

Our Jacobs Operations Management and Facilities Services team in The Villages, Florida, is working hard to build a pipeline of talent to run its water and wastewater treatment operations and other municipal services. The Villages is a well-known retirement community, so with that demographic in addition to the silver tsunami, finding a workforce poses some challenges for the project team. 

The team, specifically Jacobs Operations Director Josh Rushing, partnered with Lake-Sumter State College in 2023 to adopt the Sacramento State Wastewater Curriculum and began teaching wastewater operations Level C coursework. Josh and his fellow adjunct instructors, including Wastewater Manager David Fennell and other senior operators, teach three hours per evening, three days per week in-person, in addition to offering hands-on learning at The Villages’ wastewater treatment plant (WWTP). 

“The Jacobs-led course prepares students to work at wastewater treatment facilities with a theoretical understanding and practical training to begin a career in this field,” says Josh. 

At the end of this course, students will:

  • Recognize the responsibilities of WWTP operation and process control.
  • Identify safe operating procedures, proper sampling and laboratory testing techniques.
  • Summarize the basic biology, chemistry, mathematics, biological and physical processes associated with wastewater treatment.

Josh adds, “Students will be eligible to sit for the Florida Wastewater C license test immediately upon completion, and it’s our hope that we’ll have shining stars who we can extend operator-in-training job offers to. With real-life application and a possible job offer waiting for students upon course completion, this recruiting strategy is something that can take hold.”

The first semester ends this May, and the course will pick up again in the fall.

Jacobs provides complete operations and maintenance of public and private utility systems for The Villages, in addition to solid waste collection.