KJCC launches Environmental Water Technology training program
Thanks to instruction from Fort Scott Community College (FSCC) and a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, students at the Kansas Juvenile Correctional Complex (KJCC) now have the opportunity to gain skills in “Environmental Water Technology,” a field in which the median annual income in Kansas is $41,000.
The Department of Labor has identified that a shortage of technicians in the field is looming, as the mean age of those in the industry is in the mid-50s. The agency’s grant is targeting trainees in the 18-21 age range, and FSCC is bringing the opportunity to those in the Kansas juvenile justice system.
KJCC held an open house on Friday, Feb. 8, to introduce its new Environmental Water Technology course of study and encourage the youth at the facility to enroll in the program.
Classes in Environmental Water Technology, which are offered to residents of KJCC who have received a high school diploma or a GED, will begin in March. Enrollees in the program will typically study in a classroom setting during the morning, then engage in hands-on lab work in the afternoon, said Megan Milner, deputy superintendent of KJCC.
Students who complete each six-week course will receive an Environmental Water Technology credential from FSCC for that specific topic area – credentials that could open the door to jobs at water treatment facilities or in related industry fields, according to Matt Brillhart, the program director of the FSCC grant.
In their course work, students will learn about the complete water cycle and the different means for making water available to communities. The work involves the use of chemicals, biological treatment, and mechanical processes, said Bob Sample, lead instructor for the program. Sample said it’s an elaborate process that most people take for granted.
“Water is the world’s most precious resource, but people don’t usually know a lot about the process of getting it to our homes,” said Sample, who worked for the Water Pollution Control Division of Topeka. “I’ve had a very good career in this industry, and I hope to inspire these youth to pursue a career that will pay well and allow them to do a valuable service to the community.”
“We are excited to serve students and provide opportunities for career readiness through this partnership with KJCC,” said Dr. Clayton Tatro, president of FSCC. “Water Technologies is very much an ‘in-demand’ field with high potential for employment. Working together through this partnership, we can assist in the placement of trained individuals into the industry and their respective communities."
Residents at KJCC are required to engage in educational programs to prepare them for life outside the juvenile justice system. After completing their high school coursework, most students are enrolled in vocational programs designed to give students hands-on training and opportunities to explore career options.
“We are very excited to provide our residents such a great opportunity to prepare themselves for a career,” said KJCC Superintendent Kyle Rohr. “We know that one of the greatest keys to reducing recidivism is to give young people something productive and financially attractive to pursue when they leave. This program will offer them just that.”
Students will have the opportunity to receive credentials in four different water technology programs: Water Plant Operation, Water Distribution System Operation and Management, Waste Water Plant Operation, and Waste Water Collection System Operation and Maintenance.
The classes will apply toward an associate degree in Applied Science in Environmental Water Technology for any student who wishes to further their training through FSCC.
Washburn University will provide a Service Learning Coordinator, as well as Washburn Service Learning students, to help develop and implement service learning projects that complement the Water Technology coursework, according to Brillhart. Additionally, he said Washburn Institute of Technology will assist in providing OSHA training and potentially other classes that will assist the KJCC students involved with the program.
Beyond the Environmental Water Technology courses, the program will provide academic assistance to the students with tutoring as well as help interested students complete their GED in order to start the courses.
The residents will not, however, be allowed to leave the facility to engage on the job training. But that part of the program could be completed upon release from KJCC, said Milner.
Two case managers, Andy Massey and James Ward, will help residents consider and pursue opportunities in water technology upon their release from KJCC. Options will include taking jobs or continuing their education in the field.
“Every community has a water plant that needs proficient experts to run it,” said Massey. “After residents finish the water technology program here, we will be able to coordinate with their probation officer, with their families, and with the municipalities to help them get established in a job, or to further their training.”
Because of the length of time required to complete the courses in Environmental Water Technology, Milner said she is recommending that residents have at least six months left on their sentences to be permitted into the program.