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Drinking Water Internship Program

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Drinking Water Internship Program

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Tapping Into Opportunities

Drinking Water Internship Program   |   Fall 2023

Why Is Each Drinking Water Internship Unique?

Because it Works.

To date, Water First’s Drinking Water Internship Program is about engaging with, and listening to, the specific needs and priorities of the communities it serves. This means solutions are tailored to the unique challenges and circumstances of each community. 

The program focuses on training and skill development for young Indigenous adults, recognizing that technology alone is insufficient to ensure access to safe drinking water. Interns gain technical skills, experience and confidence to help address the immediate need for safe drinking water while also ensuring a future generation of leaders. 

Water First has collaborated with 37 First Nations communities through the Drinking Water Program. Interns have worked more than 90,000 hours in their local water plants, and 46 interns have successfully graduated from the program.

Graduation Day! 🎓

Celebrating the next generation of Indigenous water treatment plant operators

North Shore interns celebrating their graduation from the program. Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.

In late September 2023, Mamaweswen, The North Shore Tribal Council (NSTC), in collaboration with Water First, celebrated the graduation of 11 interns from their 15-month Drinking Water Internship Program. This marks Water First’s fourth successful Drinking Water Internship Program completed to date. 

Over the course of the program, each Intern accumulated 1,800 hours of on-the-job experience in local water treatment plants, essential in achieving Water Operator in Training (OIT) certification. In addition Interns pursued training in water quality analysis, GIS, and water sampling, broadening their skill set and expanding their potential career opportunities in water treatment and in the environmental water field. 

The NSTC Drinking Water Internship Program was funded through the North Shore Tribal Council member First Nations employment and training program, together with the support of Water First donors. This collaboration highlights the importance of collective efforts in tackling complex issues like access to clean water.

Watch the video below to enjoy a recap of the celebrations!

“Clean, safe, potable drinking water is a fundamental need in our communities. The success of this program has enhanced our community’s capacity to meet future demand. Congratulations to our Interns who worked hard to achieve their certifications in the water industry. We are proud of your accomplishments.”

Allan Moffatt, CEO
Mamaweswen, The North Shore Tribal Council

Experiential and Hands On Learning Leads to Success

Highlights from our latest internship

Water First’s latest internship, in partnership with Ogemawahj Tribal Council (OTC), began this past June with 8 Interns, from 5 participating communities, embarking on a 15-month paid Drinking Water Internship Program. Set to graduate in September 2025, Interns will pursue valuable provincial certifications, gain experience working at local water treatment plants and kick-start their careers in water.

Over the summer, the group studied legislation and safety, water treatment, water chemistry, water distribution, and mathematics. It was a lot to retain but Water First Educators are known for making lessons engaging and fun. Experiential learning is part of all Water First training. Jonathan, one of the community water operators, graciously toured Interns through the Mississaugas Of Scugog Island First Nation Water Treatment Facility, allowing Interns to see their learning at work. Hands-on learning, another hallmark of Water First training, was applied as Interns skillfully created models of drinking water treatment plants using anything they could get their hands on! All of this hard work culminated with OTC Interns writing their Operator-in-Training exam.⁠ Well done interns!

In the coming weeks the Interns will gather to prepare and study for their Entry Level Course and exam, a mandatory course run by Walkerton Clean Water Centre. The Entry Level Course provides new operators with a basic understanding of water characteristics and pathogens, treatment and distribution processes, and the regulations that govern water quality.

Staying Connected

Water First's Alumni Network

With Water First’s Drinking Water Internship, the learning doesn’t stop when the program finishes. Through the Water First Alumni Network, Interns remain engaged, build local networks and access opportunities for ongoing professional development and peer support.

Water First recently launched additional supports for our Alumni Network. This includes a new site, which is a one-stop shop for resources, information, access to the Professional Development Fund, links to various job boards to aid in job searches, and director-certified courses. An interactive photo and video gallery for Interns to stay connected and engaged. And the discussion board also creates a space for Alumni to share with each other and Water First staff.

In Their Words

Elijah and Kayla

“Working at a water treatment plant is hard work but it’s also rewarding.” 

Listen to more of our conversation with Elijah Toulouse, Drinking Water Graduate and his coworkers, Kayla and Jaiden, on their work at the Sagamok Anishnawbek water treatment plant.

Play Video

Save the date: November 30 🗓

Get ready for our next virtual event

Interested in hearing from participants in the Drinking Water Internship Program? Mark your calendar for Safe Water Needs Skilled People!

Join us on November 30th at 12:00-1:30 PM ET (9:00 AM PT, 10:00 AM MT, 11:00 AM CT, 1:00 PM AT, 1:30 PM NFLD) for an opportunity to hear impactful stories from Water First staff, interns and graduates of our programs and from our Indigenous Advisory Council.

New Year, New Internship

Launching our 6th internship in the new year

Water First is looking forward to launching the next Drinking Water Internship Program in Manitoba in the new year. This program will mark the first internship outside of Ontario. It’s been a long journey to get us to this point, developing new materials based on different provincial requirements. Stay tuned for an official announcement in the coming months!

There is so much to celebrate:
New graduates from the program, current interns engaged and seeing success, and a new internship set to launch soon. All of this is possible thanks to our generous supporters. Thank you!

Thank you for supporting Drinking Water interns on their path to careers in water science!

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Water plant operator in the office