Water infrastructure jobs hold opportunity: report

Ground Water Canada
June 25, 2018
By Ground Water Canada
Washington, D.C. – Compared to other sectors, water infrastructure jobs pay well, do not demand as much formal education and provide high levels of on-the-job training and the chance to develop transferable skills, according to a new report from the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program.

The program has released an analysis of jobs involved in the construction, operation, and maintenance of water infrastructure in the United States. The report, “Renewing the water workforce: Improving water infrastructure and creating a pipeline to opportunity,” emphasizes the vast scope of the U.S. water workforce, which employs workers across 212 different occupations.

At a time when many Americans are struggling to access stable economic footing and many of the country’s infrastructure assets are at the end of their useful life, infrastructure jobs offer considerable promise in tackling the widening inequalities that persist in the U.S. economy, the program said in the release.

The water sector is emblematic of this opportunity, especially given the strategic location of many water utilities as anchor institutions in the country’s most disadvantaged neighbourhoods.

The report indicates jobs in the water sector pay well – not only on average, but also up to 50 per cent more to workers at the lower end of the income scale. Many of these positions do not demand as much formal education either; 53 per cent of water workers have a high school diploma or less, compared to 32.5 per cent of all workers nationally.

Finally, like other workers in the skilled trades, water workers boast high levels of on-the-job training and develop transferable skill sets, offering long-term career pathways in an age when technologies and other labour market shifts are upending other economic sectors.

The research shows there is a clear opportunity for these infrastructure jobs to draw from a younger, more diverse workforce. Thousands of water workers, including water treatment operators, are almost four years older than the national median age (42.2 years old) across all occupations; women make up only 14.9 per cent of the water workforce, compared to 46.8 per cent of all workers nationally; and black and Asian workers only represent 11.5 per cent of the water workforce, compared to 18 per cent of all workers nationally.

Read the full report.

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