CWEA Leader Profile: President Phil Scott Discusses The New Era of Education

Phil Scott 2011Phil Scott, District Manager at West Bay Sanitary District – CWEA President 2015-16

As we head into final weeks of Annual Conference prep, we asked CWEA President Phil Scott about the value of 21st Century Education and how it’s changing the way we learn. Phil has been a CWEA member for 30 years. He joined the board in 2004 and has watched CWEA adapt to rapid changes in education, certification and the workforce.

“The impacts of transitioning from passive learning (Lectures) to active learning (audience participation) has been tremendous. This Annual Conference is going to be the most exciting ‘One Water’ event of the year with a unique focus on professional development, leadership and education.”

  1. What are the positive impacts from 21st Century Learning?

The impacts of transitioning from passive learning (Lectures) to active learning (audience participation) has been tremendous.  If you’ve been to the Opening General Session at one of the last two CWEA annual conferences you realize that this 21st Century Learning is a new and memorable experience.  Teaching is supposed to be for the benefit of the audience not the presenter.  By using techniques that engage the audience and having them participate in the learning process they retain so much more than taking notes when listening to a lecturer.

Now the presenter will teach on a learning topic and have the audience break out into small groups and answer a question, discuss a scenario, solve a problem.  They put into practice the learning material, the content, and thereby experience how it can apply to them and their workplace. By putting learning content into practice, they now own it.

  1. Can you spot significant differences in CWEA events from 10 years ago to today?

As I mentioned the Opening General Session at Annual Conference is very different from the past.  Instead of presenting the boring budget report and some other official business, we now have chairs in various seating arrangements that surround a platform from which the Speaker/Presenter addresses the audience of 350 or so people and have to present in a 360 degree fashion.  It is an experience; and that’s what we want – a learning experience.

The Exhibits at the conferences are even more interactive and vendors participation is up.  We even have education events within the Exhibit Hall.

One of my favorite changes is now we have the Ice Cream Social during the conference.  Yum!

Another difference from 10 years ago is that Sections do smarter training events.  Most of them have 2-4 hour training in the middle of the day with low cost or free lunch every other month.  So field personnel only miss one day of work or a partial day.  It saves the agency money and provides a big value by providing low cost training versus sending them far away to a multi-day conference.

  1. You started your career as a ditch digger and today you’re the General Manager – what do you recommend to young people who want to become a leader? 

I recommend you finish your education.  I fell in love and quit school.  Don’t do that.  You can fall in love but don’t quit school.  Lucky for me I finished my education as an adult and throughout my career I studied and obtained all the certifications I could get; collection system certificates, water distribution, water treatment, Ken Kerri courses etc.  Education doesn’t go to waste and it gives you options for the future.

Don’t forget to take some courses in soft skills, otherwise known as Emotional Intelligence.  Things like Effective Listening, SMART Goals, Sensitivity Training, Communicating with the Younger Generation, Win-Win Negotiations, Public Speaking, Creative Writing, Relationship Building and PowerPoint classes, all of these will help make you a better leader.

You don’t acquire those skills through traditional college degree programs, you have to look for them and find them in seminars and conferences, but they’re essential to becoming a leader in the future.  Successful leaders know life is about relationships, and it’s nice to be important but more important to be nice.

  1. Where do you see CWEA in 10 years?

In 10 years I will be tired and retired.  But CWEA will still be going strong and be recognized as the pre-eminent provider of One Water vocational certification and education opportunities.  CWEA will also be known throughout the country for preparing young professionals for leadership through the 21st century.  A great way to develop many of those soft skills I mentioned earlier is to volunteer in some capacity with CWEA, either at the local or state level.  You not only develop relationships that will last you a lifetime but you learn those leadership skills that will enhance your career and help you advance.


How have you become versed in this new wave of learning? Share your thoughts about 21st Century Education in the comment section below…

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Megan Barillo

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