WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.), both members of the Environment and Public Works Committee, yesterday introduced a bipartisan infrastructure bill to boost the utility sector workforce. The Innovative Water Workforce Development Act would establish a competitive grant program to help develop the next generation of water utility workers.

Over the next decade, approximately 37 percent of water utility workers and 31 percent of wastewater utility workers will retire, figures that far exceed the 23 percent nationwide replacement need of the total workforce.

“Today, skilled workers in the water utility management field are retiring at a higher rate than they’re being hired. This is particularly true in rural communities like those in West Virginia,” Senator Capito said. “I was proud to join Senator Booker in introducing this bill, which will help provide essential job training that will build the next generation of water utility employees. With a skilled water management workforce, we can improve and maintain healthy communities—particularly in former coal camps with intractable water systems—across West Virginia.”

“The water utility sector is facing unprecedented workforce replacement needs, with one out of every three workers set to retire over the next decade,” Senator Booker said. “We need to build a pipeline of workers that will be ready to take over when the current generation retires. Jobs in the water and wastewater sector can pay more than three times the minimum wage – our bill will make sure they’re available to more people.”

Specifically, the Innovative Water Workforce Development Act would: 

  • Authorize the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to establish a competitive water utility workforce development grant program.
  • Support public water and wastewater utilities that are facing challenges such as a high retiring workforce rate or are located in areas with high unemployment.
  • Provide support for targeted internship, apprenticeship, pre-apprenticeship and post-secondary bridge programs.
  • Encourage grant recipients to collaborate with labor organizations, community colleges, and other training and education institutions to provide on-the-job training and other skill development to ensure post-secondary success.
  • Provide support for K-12 and young adult education programs in order to increase awareness about opportunities for employment in the water utility sector.

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