| Illinois Section’s Total Water U developing future water workers
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Illinois Section’s Total Water U developing future water workers

The Illinois Section of AWWA is offering a unique professional development and engagement opportunity to college interns from its member organizations.

Total Water U participants tour a Chicago water plantNow in its third year, the Total Water U program consists of three parts. The first part is a kickoff event in June, featuring leadership training that focuses the opportunity presented by the student’s internship. Participants are encouraged to become AWWA members, with the Section supporting their first year of membership. They are also invited to Illinois Section summer networking events and receive the benefits of being a member and participating in Section trainings.

“For many, this is the first time they are in a work setting,” said Annie Storey, executive director of the Illinois Section. “We share tips for them on finding mentors, learning from their work peers, and taking advantage of opportunities and networking events. At this event we feature our Young Professional Committee members who join us and share their experiences as interns.”

“The program helped me create connections with other interns,” said Madisyn Amoral, who participated in the first iteration of Total Water U. “It was particularly rewarding to discover the multitude of opportunities available within the water sector.”

The second part of the program includes a July tour of a water or wastewater plant and a leadership panel discussion about the host site. In 2022, the group toured the Jardine Water Purification Plant in Chicago and then the Sawyer plant in 2023). This year’s program is scheduled to tour Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago.

Annie StoreyThe third Total Water U segment is a “No Water, No Beer” networking event following the tour.

“The Illinois Section is focused on workforce development and student outreach as part of its strategic plan,” Storey said. “Staff worked previously with other internship programs from other organizations and industries and knew that this is an audience that we could reach during the summer. We knew the interns would benefit personally from being involved and encourage them to work in our industry following graduation.”

“Overall, my participation in Total Water U proved to be a highly rewarding experience,” Amoral said. “The program not only solidified my interest in pursuing a career within the water industry but also helped me identify specific sectors that align with my passions and skillset. I am confident that the knowledge and connections gained through this program will serve as a valuable foundation for my future endeavors.”

Storey said the Section is exploring ways to offer Total Water U in other cities within the Illinois Section.

The program is funded by the Illinois Section as well as sponsors. Learn more here.