BC’s Water And Wastewater Sector: Safeguarding Public Health And The Environment

At any moment of the day in British Columbia, clean water flows from our taps and wastewater disappears seamlessly from our drains and toilets. 

We give little thought to the complex system of treatment, distribution and collection that make this possible, nor to the people who are responsible for these critical systems. Yet, the water and wastewater workforce plays a key role in safeguarding public health and the environment by taking care of our water and wastewater and making sure that our systems are always available and safe to use.

BC’s water sector employs over 6,000 trained professionals that design, build, operate, and maintain the systems that we depend on each day to transport water from its source to our taps and return it safely to the environment. Jobs in the sector are well-paid and are located in every community throughout BC, including roles as diverse as operators, laboratory technicians, instrumentation technicians, utility managers, engineers, and consultants. Depending on the occupation, average salaries can range from entry level positions that pay $40,000 and up to $130,000+ for managers; public sector salaries are, on average, about 30% higher than similar roles in the private sector.

Across BC, the workforce is nearly evenly distributed between water and wastewater facilities. 62% of the sector works in the Mainland/Southwest region of the province, 16% on Vancouver Island/Coast, 13% in the Interior and 9% in Northern BC regions.

Projections show that the BC water and wastewater sector will see significant workforce turnover in all regions between 2015 and 2025 due to upcoming retirements, attrition, and industry growth. Over 3,000 new hires will be needed; more than half of these job postings will be for operators, 20% for technical support staff, 14% for supervisors, and 12% for management staff. The majority of positions will be in the Mainland/Southwest and Vancouver Island/Coast regions, but good job opportunities will be seen throughout all regions of province.

Workforce demographic findings indicate that the sector is predominantly comprised of men—87% of all employees are male—and the number of young workers in the industry is below the provincial average. However, the number of women is growing in the sector, particularly in technical support field where women comprise 34% of workers.

To fill all of the roles coming available in the next ten years, there is a need to bring new workers into the water sector workforce and the related education and training programs.  Educational requirements for the sector vary widely, depending on occupation. Engineers and managers typically require university degrees; technical support roles often require specialized diplomas. Entry level operator roles require a minimum of a high school diploma or an adult education/post-secondary diploma.

Post-secondary institutions such as Okanagan College and Thompson Rivers University have created certificate and diploma programs that specialize in water system operations. Graduates from these programs are highly sought after by employers. UBC and UNBC both have excellent engineering programs that produce job-ready graduates; teams from these schools have won the prestigious WEFTEC Student Design Competition, an international competition for wastewater systems, for the past three consecutive years.

Industry certification is required to advance in many water and wastewater sector careers; prerequisites include relevant work experience. As a result, more than half of the sector is certified by the Environmental Operators Certification Program (EOCP) and many employers report that they provide additional compensation or a higher job rate maximum for positions that require either an EOCP designation or dual EOCP designation. Information on certification requirements is available in the EOCP certification guide.

About the BC Water & Waste Association

The BC Water & Waste Association (BCWWA) is one of the training providers offering continuing education for water professions throughout the province, through professional development events, skill-specific in-class training, and online courses. The BCWWA is a not-for-profit association representing more than 4,600 water professionals who are responsible for ensuring safe, sustainable and secure water, sewer, and stormwater systems in British Columbia and the Yukon. Visit bcwwa.org for job postings, information on training and professional development, as well as industry research.

To learn more about the people behind the water, watch this story of water and wastewater professionals in action as they trace the journey water takes throughout the system.

Source: Media Planet Industry and Business





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