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Drinking Water Internship Program

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Program Update | Summer 2022

Conference Room Turned Chemistry Lab

It seemed an unlikely sight in the Sudbury Holiday Inn hotel conference room. Five long tables fanning out from the main table like the parallel barbs of a feather. Each table was laden with enough equipment to give the feel of a real chemistry lab. And this was exactly the point for the weeklong Water Quality Analyst training for the Georgian Bay interns early this spring.

The Drinking Water Internship is designed to support the interns to prepare for and write three provincial certification exams: Operator in Training (OIT), Entry Level Course (ELC) and Water Quality Analyst (WQA). Of the three, the last is the most challenging for the interns. This became clear when the results of the WQA exam from previous Internships were consistently unsuccessful.

To figure out how to better support the interns for the WQA exam, we had to determine the barriers to success. The main barrier was a lack of experience with the water chemistry theory, lab equipment and experimental techniques. This was understandable–when compared to larger water treatment facilities, the smaller water treatment plants the interns work in do not usually complete as much lab analysis in house, so the interns don’t get as much practice with these valuable concepts and techniques.

To overcome this barrier, an entirely new training week was designed and delivered. The week was solely focused on building foundational knowledge of water chemistry theory, lab equipment and technical lab skills through a collection of activities and hands-on lab experiments. Since the interns couldn’t go to a lab, the lab came to them.

A few weeks later, when the interns gathered in that same conference room for a second week to prepare for the exam, they studied hard with the experience and memory of blended theory and practical application. And all their hard work paid off. For certification, 70% is the pass rate and 60% of the group achieved certification. The rest of the interns were close; some within 1-2 points. Late in the summer, before graduation, they will have the opportunity to rewrite the exam and we are certain they will all be certified.

Experience in a Big City Treatment Plant

Lori Corbiere, is a current intern from Wahnapitae First Nation, which does not have a water treatment plant. In order for Lori to accumulate the required 1,800 hours of experience, she is working at the City of Greater Sudbury water treatment plant. Recently, Lori wrote about her experience at the plant in this blog.

Extension Certifications Expand Employment Ranges

When it comes to certifications for new water treatment operators, the certification exams that the Drinking Water Internship focuses on are just the beginning of the certification journey. Once the interns have their Operator in Training certification, they must then complete 1,800 hours of work experience in a water treatment plant. While they accumulate their hours, the interns can voluntarily sign up to challenge the Class 1 Operator exam. With the hours and their Class 1 exam they can apply for the Class 1 certification, which demonstrates capacity to independently operate a water treatment plant.

Operation of drinking water systems is just part of the urban water cycle process. Treating wastewater is an important part of the cycle to make sure that the water returning to the environment is safe. This branch also requires certification and work experience.

A few of the Georgian Bay interns have already gone beyond the three certifications that the Internship encompasses and have successfully completed their Wastewater OIT and Class 1 exams. This propels them along their career path even faster. As educators, a deep joy and pride fills our buckets when the interns reach even greater heights in learning and professional development that they sought for themselves.

Resume Writing and Polishing Career Portfolios

In these final months of the Georgian Bay Internship, we will be gathering once again. This time instead of preparing for a certification exam, the focus will be on supporting the development of each intern’s individual career portfolio, resume writing skills, and practicing interview scenarios. Being able to feature and share accomplishments and qualifications in the professional world is a skill set that can always be finessed and polished. In preparation for graduation in September, Water First is supporting the interns to prepare their resumes as they approach their post-Internship job search and continuing education opportunities.

North Shore Tribal Council Internship Gears Up

As the Georgian Bay Internship cohort enters the tail-end of their program, the North Shore Tribal Council (NSTC) Water First Internship cohort is being recruited. Recruitment started this spring, when we met with community representatives and each community’s water treatment operators. Advertisements were posted in all the communities and information booths were set up at two local events to help promote this internship opportunity. Now, after a review of all the applicants and interviews, 12 candidates from seven communities have been offered placements in the Internship.

On July 4th in Sault Ste. Marie, the interns, North Shore Tribal Council members and Water First staff will gather to kick off this latest Internship together. The weeklong workshop will begin with an opening ceremony with Ogamauh annag (Sue Chiblow) from Garden River First Nation, who is a member of the Indigenous Advisory Council to Water First. In Batchewana First Nation, Chief Sayers will welcome everyone and the group will tour the community’s water treatment plant. In addition to this, each day will be filled with opportunities to hear from alumni about their experiences in the Internship, build relationships with each other, explore local water bodies and participate in a series of exploratory activities related to source water contamination, treatment processes, and math and chemistry for operators. 

The interns continue to amaze and inspire us with their hard work and dedication. Thank you to pir partners, donors and supporters who make this possible.

Looking for more inspirational stories? Follow Water First on social media for the latest.

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Water plant operator in the office