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Navigating the Waves: Insights from the Water Careers Event

By Diangelo Andrews & Hilary Tellesen

The Energy, Construction, and Utilities (ECU) Advisory event offered a view of water-related career opportunities within the region, delivering valuable perspectives for program development in the field. The event highlighted the opportunities and the challenges of an imminent skill shortage.

Ramzi Mahmood, Director of the Office of Water Programs (OWP) at Sacramento State, and Patrice McElroy, Deputy Administrative Officer from Valley Water, were keynote speakers and shared impactful presentations on the landscape of workforce development in the region, the Labor Market Data presented by the Center of Excellence showed signs of growth, with estimates of an increase from 7,150 positions in 2022 to an anticipated 8,003 by 2027, marking a notable 12% expansion in the region.

However, amidst this positive outlook of job growth, tackling the worker shortage was a predominant theme. Mahmood spoke on the forthcoming wave of retirements over the next 5-10 years, compounded by a nationwide hiring squeeze, presenting challenges in filling critical positions. The keynote stressed the inadequacy of relying solely on chance to attract students to water-related careers. Instead, Mahmood advocated for a comprehensive strategy encompassing early education, specialized training programs, hands-on experiences, recognized certifications, and pathways to successful career attainment. The employer panel echoed similar sentiments. Specifically, Samantha Blackwood from the Department of Water Resources (DWR) explained that one in ten DWR employees are currently eligible for retirement, and in five years the numbers will jump to 20 percent, or one in five, and in 10 years roughly one of three DWR employees are eligible for retirement.

In response to this anticipated shortage, panelists advocated for strategic investments in internships and grant programs. Additionally, training institutions and employer agencies can collaborate to provide practical experience and financial support to prospective employment candidates, laying the groundwork for a skilled future workforce.

As the dynamics of the regional water job market evolve, a focus on planning, education, and investment becomes imperative. Insights gathered from events like this advisory serve as an opportunity to share strategies and networks to navigate this shifting industry landscape. Additional information including the full event recording and presentation materials can be found here.

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