| AWWA sections deliver top strategies for online education, programs
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AWWA sections deliver top strategies for online education, programs

Exceptional programs created by sections of the American Water Works Association (AWWA) to provide training and educational opportunities for the water community will be highlighted at this afternoon’s Section Recognition Celebration at ACE22.

Texas high school video training programThe winning entries for the 2022 Section Education Award were developed or introduced during 2021, in the midst of the pandemic-driven shift to online programming. They demonstrate the dedication of AWWA’s sections, which have served as a local resource for AWWA members since 1914, to create innovative ways to support water service providers and the communities they serve. 

AWWA’s Illinois and Missouri sections are being recognized for an innovative joint virtual leadership program, the first of its kind to receive an award. The other three awards are being presented to the New England, New York and Texas sections for their newly-developed online training and conference programs. (Pictured right, video clip from the Texas training program.)

“This was a five-part virtual series that brought nationally-known speakers to our sections,” stated the Missouri/Illinois sections award entry. “As our global workforce shifts and changes begin to take place as the local level, there is a need to prepare our future leaders. From cultivating their leadership presence to focusing in on conflict resolution and managing a dynamic workforce, the Illinois and Missouri sections assisted their members in developing key essential skills.”

By working together, the two sections were able to split costs and promote to a greater audience, the entry stated. The Young Professionals committees from both sections provided input on topics, dates and pricing and helped promote the event to their professional networks.

The New England Section (NEWWA) was recognized for successfully delivering its first live-streamed spring conference – the Virtual Spring Learnapalooza -- held in 2021.

“NEWWA quickly learned that planning an online conference takes approximately twice as much labor as planning an in-person event,” stated the award entry. “We relied heavily on staff and volunteers. It truly took a village to make the fully live option work.”

The successful event had an attendance of 1,122 participants. “NEWWA was able to convert a multiple-day conference to online, and execute it flawlessly, as a fully live-streamed even,” the entry stated.

New York Section developed eLearning platformThe New York Section was presented an award for quickly pivoting to an eLearning Center that offered online opportunities for operators and engineers to earn continuing education units (CEUs). (Pictured left, mobile user accesses New York Section's online training.)

“The NYSAWWA Section worked to meet requirements to hold virtual events, which evolved into our eLearning Center and forever changed the way NYS operators/engineers receive their CEUs/PDHs,” stated their award entry. “This will never replace our in-person training sessions, however, the number of people we are now able to reach and help continues to grow by the day.”

The new online training platform was launched in September 2020 and in less than four months, the section began hosting live webinars that were recorded for the eLearning Center platform. Along with recorded content from instructors, the section created 35 hours of content by the time it launched. By this spring, the eLearning Center had collected 58 hours of training sessions with the goal of adding 10 new sessions each year.

The Texas Section’s winning entry is for an online, video-based high school water operator training program that can meet the needs of all-sized utilities in the state. 
“When successfully completed, this course will allow the student to immediately sit for their “D” license certification exam, which will then allow the student to enter the water workforce,” their entry stated. 

The Science, Engineering, Technology and Health (SETH) water operator certification program is supported by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, state regulatory agency (TCEQ), the Texas Education Agency, the Texas Workforce Commission and the Texas Department of Agriculture, which in August 2021 provided grant funding for the project. The program has also received licensing approval from the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service for its 20-hour Basic Water Training curriculum to serve as the basis for the SETH project.

“Texas AWWA has completed a `Proof of Concept' video using one of the training modules which is now under review by the TCEQ,” stated the award entry. “Once approved, the Section will complete the screen testing of the additional trainers and move into additional studio production. The project is to launch in the fall of 2022.”