Cuyamaca Community College to Host Women in Water Symposium on Jan. 17

By on January 14, 2019
San Bernardino County Water Conference

Cuyamaca Community College (CCC) in El Cajon, one of the two colleges of the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District (GCCCD), will host the Center for Water Studies’ 2nd annual “Women in Water – Exploring Career Pathways” symposium on Jan. 17. The all-day conference will allow high school girls and women interested in learning about career and advancement opportunities in the water and wastewater industry the opportunity to explore career pathways, the importance of forming mentorships, what it’s like for women to work in what is now a male-dominated field, developing leadership skills, and to speak with women already working in the field.

“The Center for Water Studies is playing a critical role in training the next generation of water and wastewater industry professionals, and the Women in Water symposium offers an unparalleled opportunity to gain insights and develop connections that can lead to a rewarding, good-paying career,” said Joe Young, Center for Water Studies program chair.

A regional water industry task force headed by the San Diego County Water Authority estimates local utilities will need to fill approximately 400 positions each year just to keep up with retirements and vacancies caused by those leaving the area for better jobs a more affordable cost of living. Some 4,500 people are working in the region’s water and wastewater industry, which is on the verge of seeing a glut of retirements due to an aging workforce.

A 2018 Brookings Institution report noted that because the water workforce is dominated by white males, a glut of retirements offers a chance to diversify the industry. According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators in San Diego County were earning an average wage of more than $70,000 annually as recently as May 2017.

“Our industry is experiencing a record number of job openings,” said Tish Berge, general manager at the Sweetwater Authority. “At Sweetwater Authority, we recruited for almost 10 percent of our workforce just this past year. In addition, water and wastewater jobs are recession-proof, especially working in the public sector. I am excited to show young women that there are great opportunities throughout our industry.”

The Women in Water symposium will offer two tracks of speakers: one for women contemplating a career change, military veterans transitioning to civilian life, and women already in the water and wastewater industry who are seeking professional development opportunities; the second for scores of high school girls in the region who want to learn more about career opportunities as they near graduation.

The San Diego County Water Authority’s Deputy General Manager, Sandy Kerl, will be the keynote speaker. Lan Wiborg, deputy director of Long-Range Planning and Water Resources for the city of San Diego, will moderate a general manager’s panel discussion that includes Berge, of the Sweetwater Authority; Cari Dale, Water Utilities director at the city of Oceanside; and Vicki Quiram, general manager of the Carlsbad Municipal Water District.

Women in Water – Exploring Career Pathways is co-sponsored by the California-Nevada Section of the American Water Works Association, the California Water Environment Association, the Association of California Water Agencies, and the San Diego County Water Authority. Up to 200 people are expected to attend the symposium. An open house of CCC’s new Center for Water Studies facilities will take place at 1:15 p.m. following the dedication of the new center.

Registration for the Women in Water – Exploring Career Pathways symposium can be completed via Eventbrite at: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/2019-women-in-water-exploring-career-pathways-tickets-52025257947 or through the Center for Water Studies website at https://www.centerforwaterstudies.org/women-in-water-symposium-1. Cost for the symposium is $25 per person; high school students are free.