This article first appeared in the summer 2021 issue of Mass Waters (PDF).
The workforce shortage in the wastewater industry is driven by a number of factors, including the ongoing “silver tsunami” wave of retirements. Contrast this with the fact that, in Massachusetts specifically, there are many unemployed and underemployed young adults, ages 18 – 29 who need opportunities. Boston-based X-Cel Conservation Corps (XCC) is working to address this gap by educating and preparing folks to enter into a new career path.
XCC was created in September 2018 to help address economic and racial inequity in Boston by providing a new pathway to good-paying careers in wastewater management. At the same time, it is providing licensed wastewater operators for local wastewater treatment plants that are facing an aging workforce and a lack of younger operators entering the field. Prior to the launch of XCC, the career of wastewater operator was pretty much unheard of in the Boston neighborhoods of Dorchester, Roxbury, and Mattapan. XCC has spent the past two years continually improving its model and is now successfully placing program graduates in full-time jobs as wastewater operators.
Because people are often unaware of the career of wastewater operator, the program’s first step is outreach and recruitment. One of the most effective recruitment methods is simply posting flyers throughout neighborhoods in Boston, on light poles, utility boxes, bus stops, barber shops, hair salons, corner stores, and restaurants. 70% of the most recent XCC cohort learned about the program from seeing a flyer. Next, interested individuals must go through a multi-step application process to demonstrate commitment, part of an effort to enroll individuals who are a good fit for a career as a wastewater operator.