Orange County Utilities Makes an Impact on Workforce Development

Mar 13, 2024

Orange County Utilities in Florida developed the H2O Pipeline Classroom to Career Program as a vocational initiative designed to train high school seniors to become Class C water or wastewater treatment operators. As the water sector experiences a workforce shortage that is only expected to worsen in the coming years, the H2O Pipeline Program provides a way to develop workers who are equipped and committed to providing essential water and wastewater services for their community.

With curriculum developed by the California State University, Sacramento, the primary goal of the program is to provide students with the motivation and support they need to achieve proficiency in utility operations.  A variety of methods are employed to attain this objective, such as classroom instruction, site visits to water and wastewater plants, hands-on training, guest speakers, and conference attendance.


Beyond building awareness of the sector and providing training for interested students, the H2O Pipeline Program aids in preparing participants to successfully enter the workforce through a paid apprenticeship and support in achieving licensure.  In the inaugural year of the program, ten students successfully completed the in-school portion of the program, each student achieving certification in the California State University, Sacramento courses. Six of the ten students were hired as apprentices for the six-week post-graduation summer internship. During the summer apprenticeship, five out of six of the students passed the Florida Department of Environmental Protection Class C Wastewater operator exam on their first attempt. Each of the six students were offered the chance to stay on past the six-week apprenticeship, due to their knowledge and strong work ethic. Two of the students have now been onboarded in a full-time capacity.

The H20 Pipeline Program serves multiple community needs by providing a pathway to a career for eligible high school seniors who are not pursuing advanced education, while simultaneously connecting the Orange County Utilities Department with a source of qualified recruits.  The program develops a strong and beneficial relationship among multiple parties, including Orange County Utilities, local high school students, Orange County Public Schools, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, and the Florida Section of the American Water Works Association. 

NACWA awarded Orange County Utilities a 2024 National Environmental Achievement Award in the Workforce Development category for its impactful workforce program. Congratulations to everyone involved!

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