CT colleges partner with Regional Water Authority on training for next generation of water leaders

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NEW HAVEN, JAN 19, 2018 -- With nearly one-third of the workforce at the region’s utility companies eligible to retire within four years, Southern Connecticut State University and Gateway Community College have developed a pipeline to provide highly qualified individuals to fill those anticipated openings.

In collaboration with the South Central Connecticut Regional Water Authority (RWA), the two schools have created a pathway for students to receive the education necessary to fill those projected managerial and technological job openings. Gateway has developed a certificate and an associate degree in public utility management. SCSU has created a specialization (concentration) in public utility management within the Bachelor of Science degree program in business administration. The program officially begins next fall.

“This program should fill a void in the development of future water utility leaders,” said Diane VanDe Hei, executive director of the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies, an association of the largest publicly-owned drinking water utilities in the United States.

The specialization, offered by SCSU, includes 30 credits that focus on management of public utilities, such as water, gas, electric and wastewater. New courses in crisis/risk management, green energy and environmental sustainability, and workforce safety and industry regulatory codes are planned. It also will include existing courses that will have sections tailored to focus on utility management.

Many students are likely to begin at Gateway, attain an associate degree, and transfer to SCSU in their third year to complete their B.S. degree program with the specialization. But existing and incoming students at SCSU may opt to start their program at SCSU.

“At Southern, one of our commitments is to meet the needs of the state workforce,” said Ellen Durnin, dean of the SCSU School of Business. “This is exactly the type of program that will accomplish that goal.”

Durnin said internships at various utility companies in Connecticut will be offered to SCSU students as part of the new collaboration.

“This is an exciting program that benefits the utilities, SCSU and Gateway, as well as the students,” said Larry Bingaman, president and CEO of the Regional Water Authority. “The utilities gain a pool of qualified candidates to assume management and technical positions; SCSU and Gateway have a new curriculum that meets the needs of local utilities; and the students gain new career opportunities.”

Bingaman said about half of RWA employees will be eligible to retire in the next several years. But this trend within the industry extends throughout New England and to other parts of the nation. An aging workforce -- combined with changes in regulations, technology and the push toward sustainable energy sources -- pose new challenges for the industry.

Durnin said the RWA approached SCSU and Gateway three years ago with the idea of establishing this type of program -- thought to be the first in the nation. Subsequently, representatives of other utility companies supported the concept.

The departments facing the most pressing hiring needs in the public utility field include customer service, field operations, employee relations, information technology, purchasing, and finance and quality assurance, according to a study conducted by SCSU and Gateway. The average salaries range between $55,600 and $75,833, depending upon an applicant’s experience and educational background.

For further information and program contacts

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