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Bay partners to promote careers in water industry

ESCANABA — Bay College, Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC) and the City of Grand Rapids are teaming up for a project aimed at building a pipeline to careers in the water and wastewater industry. The project is supported by a national $3.8 million U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) grant.

Together, they will use a $500,000 award to introduce middle and high school students and neighborhoods with high unemployment rates to opportunities in fresh water and wastewater utilities.

In announcing the grant, the EPA notes that the water industry faces shortages of qualified workers because of retirements and new investments in infrastructure.

“Workers at water and wastewater treatment utilities provide a service that is absolutely essential to public health, the environment and economic prosperity in their communities,” said Radhika Fox, EPA assistant administrator for water. “The water sector is facing significant workforce challenges, and it is critical that EPA and its federal, state and local partners invest in the next generation of water professionals.”

“Bay College was contacted this past summer by the City of Grand Rapids and Grand Rapids Community College to partner together to apply for the EPA Grant,” said Cindy Carter, Vice President of Business, Technology, Allied Health and Workforce at Bay College. “It created a unique opportunity for Bay College’s water program to support GRCC in this grant initiative.”

Julie Parks, Interim dean of GRCC’s School for Workforce Development, said GRCC will work with the partners to create hands-on opportunities for learning about the industry.

Bay College offers one of the few Water Resource Management programs in the country, and it is designed to provide specialized training in water and wastewater treatment theory. Troy Gallagher, Bay College’s Lead Water Instructor, shared, “Bay College’s Water Resource Management program has been designed to offer students classes either on campus or online. This delivery made us an ideal partner for Grand Rapids Community College and the EPA grant.”

“We are grateful to the EPA for partnering with us to provide this essential training, which will provide up-close looks at family-sustaining careers that keep our communities safer,” Parks said. “This program is another example of the value GRCC provides through working with community and education partners. Bay College has one of the nation’s best water programs in the nation, and we’re proud to work with the team there.”

“We are excited to partner with GRCC and Bay College to address the employment needs of water and sewer utilities,” said Wayne Jernberg, water system manager for the city of Grand Rapids. “Like water and sewer utilities across the nation, Grand Rapids is experiencing staffing shortages due to retirements and the lack of a diverse pool of qualified water professionals. We are confident that this partnership will help to address our long-term workforce needs and encourage young people to pursue a career in the water industry.”

“Bay College welcomes the opportunity to collaborate and partner together with all organizations interested in applying for state and federal grant dollars to support Michigan’s workforce,” added Carter.

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