Drinking water training courses at STCC create pathway to in-demand jobs

Hampden County

Amber Desmarais:
Amber Desmarais works as the chemist at the Springfield Water and Sewer Commission’s West Parish Filters Water Treatment Plant in Westfield. Amber completed Concepts & Practices of Basic Drinking Water Treatment in the fall of 2019 and was hired as the chemist shortly thereafter. She has since passed the Drinking Water Operator T2 Treatment license exam.

Andrew Shepard

Andrew Shepard works as a treatment plant operator-in-training at the Springfield Water and Sewer Commission’s West Parish Filters Water Treatment Plant in Westfield. Andrew completed Concepts & Practices of Basic Drinking Water Treatment in the fall of 2019. Andrew passed the Drinking Water Operator T3 Treatment exam in October 2020.
Courtesy: STCC

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (STCC) – Springfield Technical Community College will continue to offer its series of online certificate training courses to prepare students for careers in the drinking water industry. 

This spring STCC will offer the “Basic Water Treatment” course which will run from Feb. 8 – April 16.

Students in the 12-week online course have the opportunity to work at their own pace and prepare to take exams for licenses. The course and books are free for any student enrolled at a community college in Massachusetts. For others, the cost is $829 plus books. STCC’s Workforce Development Center has partnered with the Massachusetts Water Works Association and the Springfield Water and Sewer Commission to offer the training.

Assistant Vice President of Workforce Development David Buonora said the series of training courses illustrates how STCC has built strong connections with industries in the community to prepare workers.

“We’re thrilled to continue our partnership with the Massachusetts Water Works Association and the Springfield Water and Sewer Commission to offer these courses,” Buonora said. “This is one of our newer workforce development programs. We’re excited to hear from students who successfully passed their license exam after going through the training and getting hired.”

Andrew Shepard, a Springfield native who now lives in Holyoke, completed the course last year. He was hired by the Springfield Water and Sewer Commission on March 16 as a drinking water treatment plant operator.

“What I really liked about the online course was the ability to do it at my own pace,” Shepard said. “I think that – especially when you’re working full time – it’s great to be able to work on the course at times that work best for your schedule.”

This fall, he signed up for a second course, Concept and Practices of Drinking Water Distribution, to get training for additional licensing.

Another former student, Deanna Domenichelli of Ludlow, works as a laboratory technician with the Springfield Water and Sewer Commission.

“This course is an amazing resource for anyone who has even a passing interest in this field or for anyone who doesn’t really know what they want to focus in,” Domenichelli said. “They will be taught by the same people who trained the professionals who treat our local water.”

Students who complete the upcoming Concepts & Practices of Basic Drinking Water Treatment can take the Massachusetts Drinking Water Operator T1 and T2 Treatment license exams. Every public water system in Massachusetts must have licensed operators to oversee operations and ensure that drinking water meets all regulatory standards.

The course can serve as a springboard to jobs such as water systems manager, water treatment operator and water quality technician.

Instructor Daniel Laprade, of the Massachusetts Water Works Association, has been working in the drinking water field for more than 30 years. An instructor for the past 16 years, Laprade is a Massachusetts registered professional engineer and holds both Grade 2 Water Treatment and Distribution licenses in Massachusetts.

“We hear from water utilities about a shortage of trained workers,” Laprade said. “There’s not a big pool of people out there with licenses that they can hire. When they put out job notices they don’t get many applicants, or sometimes they get no applicants. These are good-paying, very rewarding positions, and we’re trying to build up that pool of new people in the industry.”

“The water industry offers so many career opportunities that are challenging, fulfilling and on the front lines of serving our communities, not to mention good pay and benefits,” said Josh Schimmel, executive director of the Springfield Water and Sewer Commission. “We are excited to be a part of this effort to create more flexibility and access in the required coursework in order to build the next generation of water professionals.”

Jennifer Pederson, executive director at Massachusetts Water Works Association, said the upcoming water treatment course is one of three. A course focusing on water distribution training was offered this fall. A third course is in the planning stages.

“These courses offer terrific opportunities for anyone interested in careers in water treatment,” Pederson said. “Concepts & Practices on Basic Drinking Water Treatment, which starts in February, is a great place to start.”

The course is open to people already working in the industry as well as anyone with at least a high school diploma or equivalency certificate who is interested in a career in water treatment. Pederson said a strong proficiency in math is important.

Students who complete the course and pass the licensing exam will have an opportunity to work in the industry or may choose to continue their education at STCC in fields such as engineering, urban studies, business administration and more to pursue positions such as water/wastewater engineer and city planner.

For more information and to register online, visit stcc.edu/water. To speak with someone about the class, call (413) 755-4225  or email wdc@stcc.edu.

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