The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program yesterday announced a memorandum of understanding to connect veterans with disabilities to career opportunities in the water and wastewater sectors as part of the EPA’s Water Sector Workforce Initiative.
The agreement allows EPA and VA to connect qualified veterans with staffing needs at water and wastewater utilities. EPA and the VA will work with water utilities and state and local VA counselors to promote water sector careers and resources for finding water jobs for veterans as well as educational programs to help veterans transition into careers in water industries.
“This agreement comes at the perfect time to address the predicted workforce shortages in the water and wastewater industries and the need for transitioning veterans into civilian jobs,” said Nancy Stoner, acting assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Water. “EPA believes that well-trained and experienced water sector professionals are vital to ensuring sustainable, properly operated systems.”
“VA has cultivated relationships with both public and private industry to ensure disabled veterans have opportunities to find and maintain meaningful employment,” said Under Secretary for Benefits Allison A. Hickey. “We are thrilled to forge this relationship with EPA to assist them with hiring veterans through our Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program.”
More than one-third of all current water operators are eligible to retire within seven years and, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, employment for water and wastewater operators is expected to grow by 20 percent between 2008 and 2018, faster than the national average for all other occupations.
Each year, VA’s Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program assists more than 100,000 disabled veterans prepare for, find, and maintain meaningful careers. Veterans are an important target group for water and wastewater utility jobs because many veterans already possess training and technical skills that are directly transferable to careers in the water sector.
There is a wide spectrum of water sector careers that veterans could be qualified for, including engineering, laboratory and water science, operations and maintenance, management and administration, communications, and public education.
The Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program further supports veterans for the water workforce by providing necessary accommodations and additional training as needed.