As a public agency, the Hampton Roads Sanitation District (HRSD) is challenged to compete for talent. One of the most challenging areas is for business talent with advanced degrees. As a business with over $350 million in annual revenue and a ten-year capital investment plan in excess of $2.75 billion, business acumen is a necessary skill set for HRSD’s success. Recognizing this need, HRSD has been investing in growing an internal cadre of MBA-educated and credentialed talent.
Capitalizing on the local availability of quality higher education with the College of William and Mary within the HRSD service area, HRSD established a policy allowing one HRSD employee to attend each offering of the 20-month William and Mary Executive MBA program fully funded by HRSD. This nationally-recognized program allows full-time employed adults to earn their MBA in 20 months, with on-site instruction every other weekend and 4 residential sessions.
HRSD uses very flexible selection criteria to select a candidate to attend the William and Mary (W&M) program. In the fall, when W&M opens applications for the next year’s program, HRSD notifies the entire workforce of the opportunity and requests interested employees to submit a written letter/email of interest. The senior leadership team reviews the expressions of interest and selects one candidate. That individual is counseled regarding the HRSD expectations, the use of annual leave as well as the tax consequences of receipt of this employee benefit. An agreement is developed with the employee, requiring repayment should they leave employment prior to 5 years after they complete the MBA. Repayment is prorated on a straight-line. If they are still interested, they are encouraged to apply to W&M. The selected employee must gain admission to the program, meeting all the academic requirements of W&M. Once accepted, the employee works with their supervisor to ensure there is no impact to productivity and the schedule of weekends and residential sessions can be fully accommodated.
Program graduates work to develop business case evaluations and other special projects across all HRSD departments in addition to their regular duties. This provides a valuable cross-departmental and highly skilled resource in applying a business discipline to analysis of a wide variety of public sector utility issues. The value of their contribution is immeasurable.
For this valuable MBA partnership program, HRSD was recognized with a National Environmental Achievement Award in the Workforce Development category in 2020. Congratulations to HRSD and everyone involved!