Professor Winterbottom Presents at New England Water Environment Association's Annual Conference

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Public utility management and the degrees offering a path to employment were the focus of a January 29 presentation by Wesley L. Winterbottom at the New England Water Environment Association’s (NEWEA) Annual Conference in Boston, Massachusetts.  Wes discussed Public Utility Management degree programs at Gateway Community College and Southern Connecticut State University (SCSU) and how they prepare students for jobs that will be available upon graduation.

An aging workforce, aging infrastructure, increased financial burdens, and regulation are creating opportunities in public utility operations for those interested in launching a career in the field, according to Wes, a chemistry professor at Gateway Community College (GCC).   

Wes noted that 40 percent of water, wastewater, natural gas and electric utility workers can retire in the next five years.  Athe Regional Water Authority, which services the greater New Haven area, statistics present an even brighter picture for those considering the field, with close to 50 percent of workers retiring in the next five years.   

Wes noted that GCC and SCSU were approached by several Connecticut utilities about starting Associate in Science and Bachelor of Science degree programs in Public Utility Management.  When the colleges began examining this concept, they found there is a dire need for programs as there appeared to be no associate or bachelor’s degree programs in Public Utility Management in the entire country.  Utilities provide approximately 10 percent of all job opportunities in the state.  

Wes said that he was pleased with the feedback he received at the NEWEA conference.  There was significant interest in the programs at GCC and SCSU, given the labor shortage issues.  

GCC’s Public Utility Management degree program is in its third year and courses are available in the classroom or online via live-interactive streaming video.  According to Wes, a certificate program also is being examined for those who already have a college degree and desire this credential to further their career or change careers.  

The 60-credit Associate in Science degree program offered at GCC is designed to prepare students planning to go directly into the workforce upon graduation or go on to pursue a Bachelor of Science degree.  Courses enable students to gain theoretical and practical hands-on knowledge for working in public utilities, as well as courses to prepare students for advanced studies.  Experience is available through internships.

Wes noted that the ability to effectively manage a public utility and provide high quality products and services in today’s marketplace requires innovative professionals. Those with an understanding of the management principles and technical skills required to operate the water, wastewater, gas and electric utility industries will be in high demand.