Water workforce development program receives $1M in funding

Nov. 8, 2019
The competitive grant program will support training and career development opportunities for workers in the water and wastewater industries.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA, NOV 8, 2019 -- A new national grant program backed by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission received a $1 million federal funding approval today by the United States Senate. The program will support training and career development for workers in the water and wastewater industries.

“We want all San Franciscans to have the opportunity for a successful and fulfilling career, with a good salary and benefits for themselves and their families,” said San Francisco Mayor London N. Breed. “With this federal funding, we’ll be able to train people for careers in the water and wastewater industries, which will continue to be essential jobs for generations to come. I want to thank Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris and Speaker Nancy Pelosi for their support of this program and for their advocacy as we look forward to funding it again next year.”

“At the SFPUC, nearly half of our workforce is set to retire in the next 5 – 10 years,” said SFPUC General Manager Harlan L. Kelly, Jr. “We need to take action now to ensure that we train the next generation of workers to fill those shoes. This grant program can help us achieve that goal.”

Included in last year’s America's Water Infrastructure Act, the competitive grant program was championed by the SFPUC and its partner utilities in the Water Agency Leaders Alliance (WALA), the National League of Cities (NLC) and the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA), among other national organizations. The original legislation was sponsored by U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV).

When the program was created last year, Congress authorized $1 million for the first year of the program (Fiscal Year 2020). As a result of the United States Senate action today and House action in June, $1 million has now been appropriated in both the House and Senate FY 2020 Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations

bills for the competitive grant program, which will help train workers to build and repair important water systems throughout the country, while providing pathways to careers with competitive wages and benefits.

Eligible grant recipients include nonprofits, labor unions, community colleges, and other training and educational institutions partnering to address the workforce needs of water utilities. Grants would be awarded for a variety of uses including training programs for mission critical skilled trades and regional collaborations to support water workforce development activities.

With climate change increasing the likelihood of extreme and volatile weather events, building and maintaining the nation’s critical water infrastructure is more important than ever.

Over the next decade, the country’s 30 largest water utilities are estimated to spend $23 billion on water infrastructure projects, according to the Water Environment Research Foundation. This influx of infrastructure work is projected to generate $524 billion in economic activity and create nearly 300,000 job opportunities across the country.

More than 30 percent of the nation’s water and wastewater workers are eligible to retire in the next 5 - 10 years, making this grant program a vital opportunity to train the next generation of industry employees.

The SFPUC has long been a national leader in workforce development. As one of the City’s largest employers, the SFPUC is committed to fostering a skilled and diverse local workforce that manages water, power and sewer operations and is connected to the communities the agency serves. The SFPUC workforce development programs connect local youth and adults with learning, apprenticeship, job training, employment, and business opportunities. These programs support a strong, inclusive, local economy and a skilled, diverse, local workforce for today and tomorrow.

In collaboration with its partners, the SFPUC supports about 1,400 annually with work-based learning opportunities and industry-related internships-- spanning engineering, finance, external affairs, technology, water resource planning, water, wastewater and power administration and more.

Included in those programs is the agency’s Social Impact Partnership Program, which invites private sector firm partners to give back locally to the communities in which they are performing work on behalf of the SFPUC. The SFPUC is the first public utility in the country to implement a social impact program that advances corporate social responsibility as a part of its competitive bidding process for professional services, alternative delivery and energy contracts valued at $5 million or more.

About the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission

The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) is a department of the City and County of San Francisco. It delivers drinking water to 2.7 million people in the San Francisco Bay Area, collects and treats wastewater for the City and County of San Francisco, and generates clean power for municipal buildings, residents, and

businesses. Our mission is to provide our customers with high quality, efficient and reliable water, power, and sewer services in a manner that values environmental and community interests and sustains the resources entrusted to our care. Learn more at www.sfwater.org.