Trenton – In an effort to strengthen the shrinking water workforce, the Senate Labor Committee passed legislation sponsored by Senators Troy Singleton and Nellie Pou which would establish the Water Apprenticeship, Training and Employment Resources Pilot Program the Department of Labor and Workforce Development (DOLWD).
“Although it is a largely unknown issue, the shrinking water workforce has become a major problem in New Jersey and across the country. The EPA estimates that approximately a third of the nation’s drinking water and wastewater operators will be eligible for retirement within the decade, creating a serious shortage in a sector that is critical for both public health and environmental protection,” said Senator Singleton (D-Burlington). “Not only are these workers older, they are also mostly white. By creating apprenticeship and training programs, with a focus on people of color, we can rebuild this workforce, while providing meaningful career opportunities for individuals from underrepresented communities.”
“Our water workforce is growing older and will soon be retiring without suitable replacements,” said Senator Pou (D-Bergen/Passaic). “Replacing this workforce will take multiple years of training, and thankfully, we still have time to prepare if we start now. Through this program, we can train a younger, more diverse workforce that will give opportunities to communities of color.”
Under the bill, S-3258, the program would be provided grants by the DOLWD to support funding for newly-established adult apprenticeship programs in the water infrastructure, clean energy and digital utilities sectors. Organizations, such as businesses, colleges or unions, would be eligible for grants if they sponsor people in the program. Applicants interested in joining the program would have to have the backing of one of these organizations.
The bill was released from committee by a vote of 5-0.