Water, wastewater treatment job training program prepares candidates for entering utility sector

New Orleans job-training non-profit Limitless Vistas (LVI) is introducing at-risk youth to job opportunities in the water and wastewater utility sector through its unique summer internship program...

Pennwell web 300 213
Pennwell web 300 213
LVI interns at the New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board plant.

NEW ORLEANS, LA, Aug. 23, 2011 -- New Orleans job-training non-profit Limitless Vistas (LVI) is introducing at-risk youth to job opportunities in the water and wastewater utility sector through its unique summer internship program.

The program was designed by LVI and partner BFA Environmental as a way to help fill the tremendous employment needs in the environmental utility industry as baby boomers enter retirement age.

"The effort began over a year ago," recalls Patrick Barnes, founder of LVI and president of BFA, in a meeting with the New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans (S&WB). The S&WB through Executive Director Ms. Marcia St. Martin first expressed an interest in assisting LVI by providing training facilities and staff. Their interest quickly expanded into support, culminating in internships for 10 students at Veolia Water North America Operating Services, LLC (Veolia) and S&WB facilities.

Limitless Vistas is an organization that was founded in 2006 to train inner city youth for careers in the environmental and green jobs industry. "This program exists for the benefit of our students, not for profit," said program Director Matilda Tennessee. Students are introduced to the technical aspects of environmental work as well as the value of working in their communities, through service learning. LVI's training techniques include classroom and hands on application in the following areas; home weatherization, construction, coastal restoration brownfield site assessment and clean up, and since 2010, water and wastewater treatment operations. This is the only youth program in the New Orleans area that is preparing inner city youth for jobs in the water and wastewater industry. Graduates earn a variety of technical certifications, scholarships and credentials and upon graduation will earn an average starting salary of $12.50/hr. Since its inception LVI has provided job training for over 250 at-risk young people in the New Orleans area.

What the Students Feel
Calvina McDowell, an LVI participant who is currently working as an intern at the S&WB, has used LVI scholarship money to attend summer classes at Delgado Community College and plans to apply for an internship at the EPA next summer. "The classes we took with Mr. Simon (Geologist and LVI Instructor) helped us be more familiar with the verbiage used in the industry before working at the plants," she said of the classroom portion of the LVI Program. This summer's programs started when ten students took a tour of the East Bank water treatment facility operated by Veolia. Subsequently nine were selected for summer internships in the areas of operations, maintenance, wastewater, and administration. The first phase of observational internships at Veolia was completed in mid July and the students are currently working at the Carrolton and Algiers treatment plants rotating through duties which include taking water samples and testing the water for various chemicals used in the water purification process.

"I enjoyed working at Veolia, it was very interesting. You don't always think about where the water goes when you flush the toilet and now I know," Ms. McDowell said. Another student, Territa Fleming added, "Interning at Veolia and the S&WB has taught me the importance of hard work and perseverance. Seeing first hand the rewards of hard work and perseverance gives me inspiration to keep moving forward toward my goal of obtaining a post-secondary education and having a successful career." When asked what type of work she did, she replied, "I mostly shadow the employees, but some of my duties in the laboratory have included observing and recording turbidity readings of influent & effluent water at the Carrolton Water Purification Plant. I have also measured and recorded the pH of the effluent & influent water. I also observed and recorded the loss of head at each filter, the psi for the entire filter gallery and the level of the water in the filter gallery." "The experience our students gain from hands-on learning and a real-life work situation is invaluable," added Ms. Tennessee.

Partners Look to the Future
Sam Reynolds, EPA Region 6 Job Training Grant Project Manager and a key LVI sponsor, said he was "highly encouraged that S&WB and Veolia Water would take such an active interest in reaching out to the LVI Water and Waste Water program." He added, "it's critical that industry and other end users of EPA funded programs be at the table and engaged and this partnership accomplishes that."

The S&WB has been in operation since 1899 to handle the unique drainage and water purification needs of the city. The S&WB now treats waste and provides clean water to approximately 497,000 people through two water treatment plants, Algiers and Carrolton, on the East and West banks of the city. The S&WB contracts with Veolia Water to operate the Eastbank and Westbank Wastewater Treatment Plants. Veolia, founded in 1853 and operating in 67 countries, is the leading global operator of water services.

Kevin Servat, the Senior Project Manager at Veolia Water- New Orleans, sees these internships not only as a way to help his community but also ensure the growth of his company, "Certified water and wastewater operators are difficult to find. The water and wastewater workforce is getting older and new younger skilled laborers are needed in the field. Veolia is the world's leader in the water and wastewater field and strives to give back to the communities that we serve and live in. There is no better way to give back than to invest in the education of the city's youth."

Through these internships LVI graduates will build lasting connections with the S&WB and Veolia Water, potentially providing them with long term career choices. We are certain this experience will also serve as a bridge to family sustaining employment opportunities in the environmental industry.

Mr. Barnes is confident that with the help of Veolia Water and S&WB and other municipal, state and federal partners, LVI can expand their program to reach, train and reconnect more youth to opportunities in the environmental industry.

For more information about our partners, you can visit the following websites:
Limitless Vistas Inc. http://www.limitlessvistas.org
Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans http://www.swbno.org
Veolia Water http://www.veoliawaterna.com
BFA Environmental http://www.bfaenvironmental.com
Environmental Protection Agency http://www.epa.gov/brownfields


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