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New training program making a splash

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Northern Maine Community College has developed a one-of-a-kind program to train technicians in the water treatment field. NMCC will be the only college in Maine to offer an associate degree in water treatment technology (WTT) as well as certificates in both water and wastewater treatment technologies.

According to the industry, these programs are essential due to an aging workforce and the need for qualified personnel to operate the more complex equipment in water treatment facilities statewide.

The programs, which will begin in the fall of 2018, were created in response to a request by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (MeDEP) and in association with the Maine Department of Health and Human Services. The two-year associate degree will cover state-of-the-art technologies in both water and wastewater treatment.  The one-year certificate programs will offer certification in either water or wastewater technology.  The one-year programs will prepare students for state-approved operator testing for immediate employment in the industry.

As an added feature, this program will also offer training modules for current industry operators as a means of advancement in their field.  The training modules will be available online throughout Maine and will allow technicians and operators the opportunity to advance their licensure levels.  This specialized training will be rolled out in January, 2018.

“We are very excited about how responsive the College has been and all the offerings developed,” explains Nick Archer, Northern Maine Regional Director of the MeDEP “We are especially eager for the one and two-hour training modules to help professionals already in the field keep up with certification requirements.  Having these recertification offerings easily accessible online is a game changer.”

“These courses are a great resource for the industry and vital to maintaining the existing workforce,” according to Dottie Martin, Academic Dean.  “NMCC has formed a partnership with the existing training providers in the industry and they are helping us determine learning outcomes.”

John Belyea has joined the faculty at NMCC as the WTT instructor and is a licensed professional engineer.   Belyea has worked in the engineering consulting industry since 1998 and is a native of Syracuse, New York, but has family ties in northern Maine. His experience includes interaction with various state and local governments and industry professionals in the eastern U.S., as well as an understanding of the future economic challenges that face the State of Maine and its municipalities.

“I am honored to be a part of the team creating and implementing this program for the region. I know we will have a real impact keeping the lakes and rivers clean for future generations and to ensure the safety and purity of our drinking water,” says Belyea.

The new WTT program will instruct students in the procedures for effective preparation, analysis and interpretation of water samples, and the treatment of water for disease control.  Students who have already worked in this occupation, or who have previous college experience, may be eligible for an assessment of the prior learning which could be applied toward the new degree.”

Initial funding for the program came from Mary Smith of California who is a long-time supporter of NMCC. Mrs. Smith provided a generous $1.5 million contribution for start-up costs associated with the program and later added an additional $150,000 for future expansion to the southern reaches of the state. Additionally, the Northern Maine Community College Foundation committed to providing $300,000 and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection provided support services valued at $50,000. This backing from both private and public sectors totals a commitment of $2 million.

“We are very grateful to Mary Smith, the Foundation and the Maine DEP for their concern about the environment and quality of life in Maine.  Our supporters understand that the image of our pristine environment helps attract people to this state,” says NMCC President Tim Crowley.  “We are also pleased that the industry has shown great confidence in the College to deliver this vital program.”

Employment opportunities for graduates of the Water Treatment Technology program include town and city treatment plants as well as plants operated by companies or government agencies.

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