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How Emily Griffith Technical College Is Helping To Ensure Clean Water for the Future

The importance of our water utilities cannot be overstated; they are the quiet guarantors of our public health and environmental wellness. Despite a half-century of progress under the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) systems of rigorously enforced water regulations, the past decade’s news cycles have been peppered with stories of water system failures that tend to overshadow the resilient everyday safeguards that our water industry provides.

When even minor system failures are reported, we hear soundbites like ‘insufficient utility funding,’ ‘government corruption,’ ‘neglect’ and ‘lack of qualified staff to operate our vital infrastructure,’ all muddled together in the pre-politicized, modern context of climate change and water scarcity. The atmosphere of alarm is easy to understand, as water touches all of us fundamentally.

READ: Water Pipeline Back in Play? — The Future of Colorado’s Water Distribution

In Colorado’s Front Range, with relatively pristine mountain water sources and long-term economic growth, we are buffered from the worst-known elements. Our local utilities maintain an exceptionally high level of service without meaningful risk of catastrophic failures, but they do share equally in one truly alarming trend common to these news events: the lack of trained professionals to operate our increasingly technical, highly specialized public water infrastructure.

Consistent, correct system operation is a fine line between both our safe drinking water and exposure to a host of microbial pathogens, toxins and carcinogens, and our healthy rivers and their decay into dead zones due to oxygen depletion and microbial and nutrient pollution. Lack of a qualified workforce is a looming crisis that cannot be ignored.

Here, near the mountain sources, our water system failures would literally trickle down to the country’s most critical water supplies. In this vital region, the Water Quality Management program at Emily Griffith Technical College is helping to address the urgent workforce demand by offering high-quality, entry-level operator training to all who wish to learn.

Our local water industry is a dynamic environment full of dedicated professionals, technical innovation, partnerships, growth and opportunity. Dozens of examples of exciting projects present themselves at a glance: new treatment plants being constructed to meet the challenges of a complex array of emerging contaminants, aging infrastructure being replaced at unprecedented efficiencies, resource recovery plants producing natural gas and fine agricultural fertilizers from what was considered “wastewater” only a decade ago, are just a few examples.

There are countless career opportunities across a fascinating technical spectrum, but water seems relatively unrecognized as a viable career path among our younger generations. This lack of awareness is a critical problem that bears an increased risk of future system failures.

READ: Why We Need to Build a Better Trades Workforce — And How to Build It

USEPA requires certification by exam to operate water facilities. While a 4-year college degree is not necessary, passing the exams calls for substantial knowledge of hydraulic systems and equipment with a nuanced grasp of environmental science, applied chemistry and microbiology. As the industry grows more technically sophisticated, it becomes more difficult to pass the exams without first-hand experience or formal education.

The Emily Griffith Water Quality Management program is in a unique position to bridge this knowledge gap by providing this specialized training through a 10-month certificate program to all interested candidates, but more students are needed to fill the burgeoning local demand for operators.

Emily Griffith Technical College is dedicated to a learning approach and curriculum that provide the highest level of entry-level operator training and exam and career preparation. Our accelerated program covers the broad scope of the industry, providing the strong scientific foundation required while keeping student debt at a minimum.

Steeped in a long tradition of trades education, we focus on providing an experiential, hands-on learning environment. Students perform the chemistry and microbiological laboratory analyses while operating small-scale water and wastewater systems to reinforce the principles they are learning and benefit from unique hands-on learning opportunities to help them grasp subtle concepts.

READ — America’s Energy Future Depends on Cultivating the Next Generation of Talent 

With a current job placement rate of around 90%, the program meets its goal of supplying highly qualified water professionals. Graduates are welcomed into an industry where their education is valued, they have a clear path of career growth and life-long learning, and they attain the long-term financial stability and benefits that have historically been the hallmarks of a career as a water operator.

Emily Griffith Technical College is one participant in a growing effort to increase awareness of water quality as a meaningful career path. There is an immediate and urgent demand for good operators to sustain the traditions of public health custodianship and environmental stewardship that our industry represents.

To explore water quality as a career path and learn more about the Water Quality Management program at Emily Griffith, visit www.emilygriffith.edu or call 720-423-4700 to speak with an Emily Griffith Career Navigator.

 

Matthew McfaddenMatthew McFadden is the Water Quality Management Instructor at Emily Griffith Technical College. He holds an MSCE from the University of Washington and has a wide range of technical experience spanning 15 years in the industry as a professional engineer. In addition to facilities design and construction management, he has been principal investigator and lead author for numerous water quality-related research efforts.

Want to Set your Business Apart From the Rest? Consider Apprenticeship

One of the most difficult challenges businesses face today is the lack of available and skilled workers to fill roles in key — sometimes even essential — industries. Through “The Great Resignation” and beyond, businesses of all sizes and in all industries have had to get creative about how they are finding employees; the traditional means of posting a job online and getting an influx of applicants is no longer effective for most businesses. Enter apprenticeship.

READ — How to Successfully Recruit Talent Today

While apprenticeships are not a new tactic, they are experiencing a resurgence of sorts. Apprentices earn a wage while getting hands-on experience in a specific position, learning on the job and in a classroom, in what we call “earning and learning.” As a bonus, apprentices have a mentor on the job to support and guide them.

Emily Griffith Technical College, based in Denver, has been working with businesses to offer apprenticeship programs since the College’s inception 106 years ago. The school works with businesses around the state to build and provide education for apprenticeships that fill employer workforce pipelines and meet industry needs. Apprenticeship is a proven pathway to help recruit, train and retain employees at a company.

Apprenticeships used to be solely thought of in conjunction with trade positions, like in the plumbing, construction or electrical fields. Today, apprenticeships can be used in any type of professional job. For example, businesses that need accountants, web designers, project managers, office managers and many others are developing apprenticeships to fill key roles and their employee pipeline.

Because apprenticeships fill a specific business need, they are employer-driven. Businesses identify a gap in their workforce and can partner with a technical college, like Emily Griffith, to create an apprenticeship program. Emily Griffith-sponsored programs are U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL)-approved Registered Apprenticeship Programs. The State of Colorado works with the USDOL to provide important infrastructure and support to apprenticeship programs and apprentices.

In an apprenticeship, the employer determines all aspects of the program including what the apprentice will learn and what they will be proficient in at the end of the program. The employer also identifies the educational components needed to fulfill the program, although Emily Griffith often works with employers to determine content. At the end of the apprenticeship, the apprentice earns a certificate from the Department of Labor showcasing completion, as well as other industry-recognized credentials incorporated into the program.

Technical colleges sometimes get the proverbial “cold shoulder” when compared to a two- or four-year college. But keep in mind that the goal of a technical college is to get people through a given program and on to their career in a shorter span than a two- or four-year college. Some apprenticeship programs take just one year to complete.

On the educational side, Emily Griffith helps students develop skills, at entry level or above, for the specific industry where they are placed. This alone is a key component to help fill employee pipelines. Many businesses can’t wait two or four years for someone to learn a skill and graduate, and even then, the person may not have any real-world experience. Emily Griffith apprentices are working consistently, as they progress through their program, and graduating in a shorter time span, ready to enter the workforce with the skills the industry needs.

Not only does apprenticeship help businesses gain new employees, but it is a substantial, under-the-radar way for employers to enhance their company culture. Apprenticeship gets new people in the door at the company, and shows that the company is dedicated to investing in their employees by providing educational and on-the-job mentoring.

READ —Building a Company Culture of Care

So how can a business set up an apprenticeship program? If you are struggling to hire the right people for your company, consider apprenticeship. Working as a team, we can set up a program in just three months, getting new people into your company shortly after.

Apprenticeships are the perfect way for businesses and industries of all kinds to train and hire new employees during a time when hiring continues to be a challenge. Consider creating an apprenticeship program to help fill gaps in your own business and you’ll surely experience the rewards of doing so.

 

Kelsey GlassKelsey Glass is the Dean of Apprenticeship at Emily Griffith Technical College in Denver, Colo. She creates sustainable pipelines to help people be successful, working directly with industries to see where there are growth opportunities and where there is a supply/demand gap that Emily Griffith can help fulfill.

Joshua Jones hired as Career Navigation Manager at Emily Griffith Technical College

Throughout the pandemic, Emily Griffith Technical College has made updates and changes to its processes to take the school successfully into the future. The latest update is a new admissions intake model and student lifecycle systems to help students successfully navigate their schooling, education and career. To support this process and oversee the new department, the school has hired Joshua Jones as the Career Navigation Manager.

“We are excited for this new intake process because of the benefits it provides our students,” said Keo Frazier, Vice President of Communications and Engagement, senior lead over the Student Navigation Center at Emily Griffith Technical College. “One of the most vital ways to keep a student on track for the entirety of their education into their career path is to engage with them from the minute they express an interest in our school. This new process will provide much needed support for our students that is unique to each person.”

The student intake process starts with recruitment and marketing to ensure the community knows about the school’s programs and educational opportunities. Next, the Student Navigation Center takes over engaging future students who express interest in a career that starts at Emily Griffith. 

New Career Navigators in the Center will help students choose a career path and a program within that path. The Career Navigators will help students who want to focus on one of the following six career paths: Skilled Trades and Apprenticeship, Health and Wellness, Service Industries, Information Technology and Computer Science, Business and Office Professionals, and English and Immigrant Services.  

Members of the Concierge team will welcome students by answering questions and fielding emails to direct current and future students to the right people and resources; and support them through their education and career placement. 

Once students have chosen a career path and are in their selected program, they work directly with their instructors to complete their academic work. Students will also work with Career Coaches that are associated with each college and help students during their time in class and connect them with career and job opportunities once they complete their program. 

To support the new process, the school has hired Joshua Jones as the Career Navigation Manager. Jones has been involved in higher education for nearly 15 years and worked at Elsmere Education as the Director of Enrollment Services, and at The Art Institute of Colorado as Senior Director of Admissions. “My passion lies in guiding students throughout their educational journeys and ultimately reaching milestones,” said Jones. “I’m excited to help lead the way to student success through our Career Navigation Center.” 

Emily Griffith Technical College has touched so many lives in Colorado, helped to start thousands of small businesses, and has consistently jumpstarted individuals into new careers. Emily Griffith is an institution that continues to power Colorado’s economy and workforce. For more information about Emily Griffith visit EmilyGriffith.edu. To follow the progress, visit facebook.com/EmilyGriffithTech/.

Learning New Skills for the New Normal

As of June 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicated that the United States’ unemployment rate was 11.1 percent. That’s higher than during the height of the Great Recession (10.6 percent) and at the peak of the ’80s recession in 1982 (10.8 percent).

Though these numbers represent a huge improvement over the previous month, 17.8 million people are unemployed, including restaurant and hotel employees, retail staff, people who support the sports, travel and entertainment sectors, oil and petroleum workers, software developers, writers, higher education administrators, and this doesn’t even begin to tally up the losses for gig workers.

Though the US government approved the mighty $2-plus trillion CARES Act to shore up the economy, a measure that put $1,200 in every wallet, the coronavirus continues to rage across the country and the federal government’s $600 unemployment enhancements expired in late July.

For those who have lost jobs, experienced furloughs or seen pay reductions, the pandemic represents a chance to not only adapt to the new normal but also retool what you have to offer. Were you stuck in a low-wage job? Is there another career you’ve wanted to pursue? Who might be hiring in the pandemic/post-pandemic job market? Do you need new skills for this brave new world that’s coming?

Historically, when recessions hit, people tend to return to school. That’s because the opportunity cost—the jobs and earnings you give up while in school—plummets, making education more attractive. A certificate or new degree can add shine to your resume and position you for a career do over.

Nobody knows what the job market will look like in the aftermath of the coronavirus, but if you find yourself recently unemployed, now might be a good time to reconsider your education, especially if you have a clear goal in sight and can achieve your goal without incurring too much debt.

Because of the pandemic, colleges and universities recognize that prospective students’ financial situations may have changed. “Even now, people should be able to accomplish their educational goals,” observes Mj Huebner, the vice president for admission and financial aid at Kalamazoo College and veteran enrollment management consultant. “Talk to a financial aid counselor. Colleges and universities have really tried to understand individual family circumstances as they relate to unexpected COVID expenses. Colleges and universities have also tried to make changes to allow for a more seamless and easier going-to-college process.”

Depending on what you want to accomplish, community colleges and career and technical institutions can offer lower-cost—and quicker—alternatives to traditional four-year colleges and universities. Should you want to become a medical doctor, you can certainly start at a community college, which can lower your overall costs, but you’ll finish in medical school—six or seven years down the line. If you want to become a pharmacy technician—a hot degree if ever there was one in our nation’s hot zones—you can earn a certificate in an accredited program and begin practicing in less than a year.

At Emily Griffith Technical College in Denver, educators have moved most courses online or created hybridized models of in-person and online models for programs such as automotive, welding and cosmetology that require hands-on instruction. The college also continues to offer programs in technology and healthcare to prepare students for post-coronavirus workforce trends they’re already noticing.

“The widespread telehealth and work-at-home phenomena are likely to continue,” says Stephanie Donner, executive director at Emily Griffith Technical College. “So jobs that support home-based workers and healthcare should be in high demand. Think software developers, network administrators, cyber security professionals and training help. And clearly there’s a huge need for additional healthcare workers and domestic manufacturing capacity to scale medical products and equipment.”

To that end the college recently launched the online Google IT Support Professional Certificate to add to programs they already offer in computer networking, cybersecurity, web development, multimedia and video production along with healthcare opportunities such as practical nursing, phlebotomy, pharmacy technician and targeted trades.

“These programs and others that we offer can help displaced workers prepare for the future,” Donner explains. “Emily Griffith is here to help people reenergize their careers and return to work re-skilled and ready to contribute to a new Colorado.”

Leslie Petrovski is a freelance writer supporting Emily Griffith Technical College.