Nov 07, 2013

WRF Helps Utilities Address Workforce, Leadership Needs

The two reports are part WRF’s research mission to address challenges facing water utilities

Water Research Foundation Projects Utilities Workforce Leadership Needs

The Water Research Foundation (WRF) published two projects aimed at helping water utilities better meet their workforce needs. These are: “Competency Model Development and Application to Meet Water Utility Workforce Needs (Project #4244)” and “Water Utility Executive Leadership for the 21st Century (Project #4342).”

The focus of the “Competency Model Development and Application to Meet Water Utility Workforce Needs” project and accompanying Water Utility Workforce Needs Web tool is on applying competency modeling to improve job performance. Competency modeling involves analyzing a job to identify the skills and personal characteristics that drive superior performance. These competencies are then incorporated into a model that describes the personal characteristics, attributes and motivations that are needed to perform a job well. Once the competencies of a position are known, hiring, training and retention procedures can be put into place that will help the utility develop the workforce it needs in the future.

Twelve models were developed for critical positions in the water field, including:

  • Water Treatment Plant Operator
  • Distribution System Operator
  • Process Control Specialist
  • Water Operations Supervisor
  • Facilities Maintenance Mechanic Technician
  • Instrument Technician
  • Distribution System Operations Supervisor
  • Foreman/Crew Leader
  • Water Quality Specialist
  • Customer Service Representative (Office)
  • Laboratory Technician
  • Project Engineer

The jobs chosen were those that the U.S. EPA, the U.S. Department of Labor and WRF identified as being important in the day-to-day functioning of a water or wastewater utility and are also projected to have high levels of vacancies in the next decade. The report describes how the models can be used and outlines a process for creating additional ones. The Web Tool allows users to download the competency models and other material from the report.

The second project, “Water Utility Executive Leadership for the 21st Century,” presents a summary of executive positions in the water community, including their demographics, educational qualifications, professional backgrounds, skills, career paths, attitudes and behavior. This study assesses the degree to which CEO characteristics align with utilities’ present and long-term challenges and helps lay the groundwork for improved recruitment, training and promotion of water utility CEOs in the future.