Summer break is nearly over, and for many students that means saying goodbye to fun in the sun and reigniting a desire to learn. But summer wasn't a total wash for students interested in pursuing education and careers in the water industry. Across the country, students from grade school to incoming-college freshman participated in programs that immersed them in the biology, geology, hydrology and just plain interesting stuff that happens between a water reservoir and the kitchen faucet.
Meanwhile, a national dialogue continues on education, particularly in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), encouraging students to engage in these critical fields. Part of this effort is being undertaken by American industry, seeking to develop future engineers, conservationists, facilities managers and even chemists, and the water industry is no exception, engaging in a variety of programs designed to expose the career possibilities in protecting and delivering this essential resource. To cite just a few examples of students and industry working together this summer:
• NAWC continued its long term commitment to engaging students in water-related education by helping sponsor the Federal Water Quality Association's scholarships for four graduating high school seniors;
• Middlesex Water held a "Faces Behind the Faucet" competition for 6-8th grade New Jersey students about the myriad careers in the water industry. Students were asked to write an essay on a career path they found interesting, and winners were selected to shadow a water professional for a day to see hands-on what goes into bringing water into the home; and
• Teenagers in Connecticut got a chance to see the inner workings of Aquarion Water Company, in a "boot camp" designed by a local biology teacher. Company experts explained pieces of the complex water services process, and opened participant eyes to opportunities to contribute to this essential industry.
On a personal note, I've enjoyed regularly engaging with students at my alma mater, Duke University, who are pursuing careers in water and/or environmental management. These graduate students, just like the kids participating in the Middlesex and Aquarion programs, represent the future of our industry, so working with them now not only helps to prepare them for the challenges of their professional futures, but gives me a leg up when we're all working for them later!
All of these students have one thing in common: curiosity. It is up to all of us, in whatever industry we are involved in, to encourage this pursuit of knowledge. If you have young inquiring minds at home, don't let the end of summer mean the end of opportunity to expose them to hands-on learning away from the classroom. As STEM education progresses, the country will rely on them and their interest and ingenuity to meet the growing global demand for innovation. We can do our part simply by opening their eyes the world of possibilities.