Meghan Jensen, vice president of marketing & communications for The Water Council, on what The Water Council is working on in 2019.
How do you think workforce challenges are affecting the water sector? What is The Water Council doing to try to mitigate issues related to the skills gap? What are you doing to attract millennials and younger workers to the field?
Utilities aren’t a glamorous industry. Leaders are retiring, and water technology as a career pathway isn’t always top of mind. For these reasons, The Water Council uses programs and communication campaigns to connect talent with industry, academic and utility members to help grow the water talent pool. For students in high school and college, we helped form student chapters to connect young talent with professionals in the water industry, develop professional career skills and spread awareness of water opportunities across campus. I developed the first student chapter of The Water Council when I was in college, so it’s really cool to see how they’ve expanded. Last year we launched a new internship program for engineering students from Historically Black Colleges & Universities, which matches students with internships at organizations in Milwaukee’s water tech hub. Kyndal Luster, who interned for the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District shared that “where we come from at Tuskegee University, they don’t really push for the water technology industry. Now seeing this industry, it has opened up a whole new avenue for a career path.” It’s magical.
How do you think the recent approval of the water infrastructure bill will impact the water sector?
It’s a great step in the right direction and recognizes that water is critical to our country. There are many solutions existing in the marketplace today and investing in advancing these as well as developing new, technological solutions will help ignite more water innovations. I think the more attention we can bring to our water challenges, the more talent we can attract, and the more ideas we can help to flourish in the water industry.
When it comes to issues the water sector is facing, what keeps you up at night?
Lead pipes. Aging water infrastructure. Funding. How this will affect our children and grandchildren. It’s rather frightening, but we’re optimistic with the number organizations working on research, education and advocacy to advance the industry.
What are you most optimistic about in 2019? What else should the readers of Pumps & Systems know about the year ahead?
There’s a lot of collaboration and energy around entrepreneurship in Milwaukee and many organizations are coming together with a common mission to spur tech innovation like Northwestern Mutual, Advocate Aurora Health and A. O. Smith Corporation. Water innovation can come from anywhere, so communication is important to break down silos to help transfer ideas from one industry over to the water sector, and vice versa. We’re very focused on melding the gap between water-reliant industries and water technology businesses by raising awareness of water stewardship opportunities and providing a forum to address shared water challenges. For talent interested in creating a new water-related business we provide startup funding, training, mentors and a place to launch their business through the BREW Accelerator competition.