By Chris Lundeen, CAE, CWEA Director of Certification
Across the nation we are experiencing a push toward full employment as the economy continues to heat-up. Here in California, many of the counties in our largest labor markets have already reached full employment, with the rest of the state expected to catch up by 2016.
With this growth, workforces across all sectors are looking for new opportunities and leveraging professional credentials as a way to improve their professional mobility. According to recent research from the Institute for Credentialing Excellence, professional certification applications have increased 150% since 2009.
Here in our own water resource sector we are seeing similar changes with CWEA certification applications growing by 24% between June 2011 and June 2015. We’re seeing much of this growth is in our entry level Grade 1 and 2 certifications. During that same time we have seen a 72% jump in the number of job openings being posted on CWEA’s Jobs Available web site.
These are all great signs of an economy in recovery, but we are also hearing from water utility leaders that this is a cause for concern. Employers are facing an evaporating pool of qualified candidates for open positions and increasing competition for well qualified professionals.
As labor markets tighten, managers are looking for ways to recruit and retain qualified personnel. Voluntary certifications are seen as a way to enhance organizational competencies while increasing employee satisfaction. CWEA certification also enhances career mobility, especially through our entry-level Grade 1 certifications. We are seeing many of our Grade 1 certificate holders transitioning to water careers from similar trades in other industries. CWEA certification programs help to define career pathways for transitional workforces while also providing a means for potential hires to demonstrate competencies to employers.
As we look forward to continued economic growth and increasing opportunities for the workforce, this is a perfect time for water professionals to get certified or upgrade to a higher grade level. If you, or somebody on your crew, missed the November 30th deadline for the CWEA winter testing window the next deadline is February 29 (you get an extra day to apply thanks to leap year).
Be sure to familiarize yourself with the Path to Certification and the Knowledge Skills and Abilities (KSA) Gap Tool. myCWEA.org lists upcoming certification orientation sessions designed to help you familiarize yourself with what is expected on the test.
Of course you will also need to study on your own or with colleagues. How much you have to study depends on the gaps between the KSAs and your experience and education. Our study guides are free to CWEA members and provide details on the KSAs and suggested reading assignments.
About the Author
Chris Lundeen has worked in the professional credentialing world for over 20 years. Much of his career has been dedicated to providing strategic direction for CWEA’s Technical Certification Program. He has also served as chair of a national certification program and has worked with a number of other organizations on certification issues. Before all of that, he earned his MS in Economics and then managed a computerized testing center administering licensure and certification exams mostly for IT professionals, pilots, and aircraft mechanics.