In April, the Environmental Finance Center Network’s (EFCN’s) Water Leadership Program announced the inaugural cohort of 38 water professionals from around the country who will participate in a three-month professional development program. The program aims to give rising water leaders the training and resources needed to face the challenges of utility management with confidence and improve the quality of life of their residents. Through the pilot program, water professionals will participate in three months of sessions focused on asset and data management, disaster resiliency and planning, environmental justice, strategic communications, culturally responsive leadership, and other subject areas that are critical in an increasingly diverse and rapidly changing water sector.

The EFCN Water Leadership Program’s inaugural cohort represents a wide range of experiences and geographies, working at the local, county, and state levels across 20 states and Singapore. 15% of the water professionals participating in the program identify as Hispanic or Latino. 47% of the inaugural cohort identify as women, compared to just 14.9% percent of the water workforce, according to a report by the Brookings Institution.

38 water professionals from 20 states will receive leadership and management training to help improve water infrastructure for residents of their communities. Map: Cristen Crew, Syracuse University Environmental Finance Center.

EFCN’s Water Leadership Program is being led by the Syracuse University Environmental Finance Center, in partnership with the Wichita State University Environmental Finance Center and Southwest Environmental Finance Center at the University of New Mexico. Staff from all three Centers, as well as experts from EFCN’s national network of partners, will work with the accepted water professionals to offer training and support individual career development. Since EFCN’s launch in 2012, the Network has trained more than 32,000 water and wastewater professionals from thousands of communities across the country.

The program is funded by a grant awarded by the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s Innovative Water Infrastructure Workforce Development Program, which launched in 2021. The pilot program is one of several receiving a total of $3.8 million in funding to help build the water workforce and connect individuals to career opportunities in the drinking water and wastewater utility sector, as well as expand public awareness about job opportunities at drinking water and water treatment utilities.

“There’s a lot of workforce development research from institutions like the Brookings Institution and Harvard Kennedy School showing the importance of building out pilot programs that are flexible, sector-specific, and receive financial support from the federal government,” says Patrick Lynch, Program Manager at the Syracuse University Environmental Finance Center. “We hope this program will both support the first cohort in achieving their career goals and supporting their communities, and help Centers like ours to improve and scale up our workforce development programs at the local and regional levels.”

You can read the full Press Release here: Environmental Finance Center Network Announces Inaugural Cohort of National Water Leadership Program