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President’s Annual Letter to Members: What’s the Value of Certification?

City of Vista Collection Systems Team
Phil Scott, CWEA President 2015-16

Dear Members and Colleagues:

CWEA’s members are worth it! And it’s worth getting a certification.

This year CWEA is developing a strategic plan for our Certification program. Wow, sounds boring! But it’s super important. Let me tell you why I think it’s important.

When I entered the wastewater profession in 1981, I started out digging trenches. I was a ditch digger and I could dig like nobody’s business. Ditch digging is the only occupation where you start at the top and work your way to the bottom.

My partner and I dug a 14-foot deep trench on a street in Hayward to replace a broken lateral. This was back when sewer work was listed as the most dangerous occupation in America — because dummies like me didn’t use shoring to hold up the sides of the trench wall.

I didn’t even know what shoring was. I could have easily been digging my own grave and didn’t even know it. I was also entering manholes on my own. One I remember was 25 feet deep at a community college and no one knew I was there. I climbed down the manhole, with corroded old steel steps, to retrieve a stick in the line to keep the sewer from clogging. I didn’t know about deadly methane, H2S, or the other gases that could have killed me. I didn’t have a CWEA certification.

Now everyone who works for me is required to have a Grade 1 CWEA certificate in Collection Systems Maintenance. I’ll pay them premiums if they get a grade 2 or above. This way I know they have a minimum level of competence. I know they understand basic safety principles. If they get a grade 2, I know they understand journeyman methods and techniques. If they have a grade 3, they have an understanding of advanced methods related to their vocation and understand basic supervisory principles. If they have a grade 4, I know they are master technicians and possess a supervisory and managerial understanding of their profession. I don’t worry about them.

Are CWEA MEMBERS worth it?
You bet your life they are and it’s worth everyone’s time and effort to help our fellow members get their certification. I have found CWEA certified workers are safer, smarter and more creative in developing solutions. They’re worth every penny my agency invests in their education. CWEA plays a huge role in our District’s ongoing career development and training program.

Certification Strategic Plan
Now CWEA is embarking on a strategic plan for Certification that will help move the sector into the 21st century and explore what changes, additions, or modifications to the certification program are needed to help members succeed in their careers. We’ll ask tough questions about how to make our program better. “Do we need ‘micro-credentials’ for our vocations?” Examples of a micro-credential include a certificate focused on sewer line televising for Collection System Maintenance certificates or a Pump Impeller microcredential for Mechanical Technologists. Should members be able to craft custom certificates that better suit the job they have? How do we make that affordable and sustainable? What type of education should CWEA provide for certification preparation? These are the kinds of things we’ll be exploring over the next year. If you are a manager who wants to make wise investments in your employee’s training and development, we especially need your input.

Email us to get involved: Phil Scott and Chris Lundeen, Director of Certification. We look forward to your input. Together we can be the best and the safest!


Phil Scott

CWEA President 2015-16

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