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New Federal Guidelines Establish Apprenticeship Guidelines for Wastewater Professionapprentice

The United States Department of Labor (DOL) has adopted new national guidelines for wastewater systems operator apprenticeship programs. The new guidelines, developed as a joint effort between the DOL and the Water Environment Federation (WEF), define the minimum educational and on-the-job learning requirements for operators and establish a clear point of entry into the profession.

The National Guidelines for Wastewater Systems Operator Apprenticeship suggests a two-year intensive schedule of 3,520 work process hours and 480 instructional hours. Work process hours will provide on-the-job experience alongside supervisors and coworkers. Industry curriculum is structured around six pillars: orientation and safety, operations, maintenance, quality control, logistics and administration. Additional instruction focuses on the theoretical aspects of the occupation, such as pumping systems, mathematics, and solids management.

The DOL announced the new guidelines to its state divisions, which will work with employers and local sponsors to introduce them to wastewater utilities. The new standards are a model for developing local apprenticeship programs registered with the Office of Apprenticeship (OA) or a State Apprenticeship Agency (SAA) for the wastewater treatment plant operator occupation.

In a news release, WEF's Technical and Educational Program Manager, Christine Radke, said, “We believe that widespread adoption of the national standards will lead to more consistency in training and certification, an elevated profile for the operator profession, and greater opportunities for reciprocity. If an operator is certified in one state under the federal standards, he or she should be able to work just as easily in a neighboring state. We’re not there yet, but we are definitely a few steps closer.”






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