While the workforce currently spans five generations of employees, Millennials account for one-third of the working population with members of Generation Z starting their careers. As this generational shift in the workforce continues, it is important to foster up and coming members of the water industry through events like the American Water Works Association (AWWA) and Water Environment Federation (WEF) Young Professionals (YP) Summit. This annual event brings together undergraduate and graduate students and early career professionals for opportunities to network, learn, and spark conversation about serving the water sector at large.
In addition to my role here at Woodard & Curran, I volunteer as a member of the AWWA YP Committee with my colleagues Renee Lanza and Stephanie Hubli, who serves as the current vice chair. Together, we joined more than 200 of our peers at the 2023 YP Summit held in Sacramento, California this year. Attendees came with a range of experience from an array of sectors, including engineering, operations, construction, communications, laboratory staff, and customer service. The summit included discussions around tools for water professionals, how to get involved in water policymaking process, developments in water reuse in California, and how to innovate your personal brand and your work.
Event organizers asked attendees to rank the most pressing issues facing the water industry to guide discussions during the YP Summit but noticed something interesting in the findings. The top three issues according to poll respondents are aging infrastructure, climate change, and emerging contaminants. While the State of the Water Industry (SOWI) has ranked aging infrastructure as its top priority five years running now, climate change and emerging contaminants did not make SOWI’s top 20.