MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – When your career provides an essential service to the community, continuous learning is vital. Like funding given for academics and athletics, scholarships for professional development are awarded based on merit. On May 23, six water professionals from Consolidated Utility District (CUD) of Rutherford County were each honored with a $2,000 scholarship to continue their work in the National Rural Water Association (NRWA) Apprenticeship Program administered by the Tennessee Association of Utility Districts.
CUD Maintenance Technicians Jon Fitzgerald, Jonah Hartline, Hunter Helton, and Jacob Stevenson received funding to continue their education toward the role of Water Systems Operations Specialist. Wastewater Operators Devin Drew and Bailey Robbins earned financial support for their development track toward Wastewater Systems Operations Specialist.
Since first entering the program in May 2022, all six honorees have completed at least 2,500 of the required 4,000 on-the-job hours. For both development tracks, education includes 240 hours in tools, equipment, and workplace safety; 400 hours in vehicles and heavy equipment; 1,920 hours in system operations and maintenance; 960 hours in quality control; and 480 hours in logistics, reports, and supervision.
The six scholarship recipients have additionally completed more than 160 of 318 required classroom hours. Their coursework has covered a variety of topics including inspection of backflow preventers, excavation and trenching, CPR/first aid, collections systems, and operating in confined spaces.
Each of the Maintenance Technicians is scheduled to take the Grade II Distribution test and then prepare for the Water Treatment Certification and the Collections Certification.
Management and department heads at CUD place a strong emphasis on continuing education throughout the workforce. “One of our core values is innovation,” said CUD General Manager Roger Goodson. “We encourage all of our professionals to embrace learning. That process makes them more valuable, and it ultimately benefits our ratepayers.”
“It’s a great feeling when you see your team members grow their skillsets,” said CUD Maintenance Manager Brian Worley. “The scholarships provide appreciation for the work they’ve already done and encouragement for the road forward.”
“When you see the effort put in by members of your team, it has a great effect on everyone around them,” said CUD Wastewater Manager Joe Fisher. “This helps us live out our core values, and it shows that we set a high bar in terms of work ethic.”
CUD intends to enroll four more professionals in the program later this year. The apprenticeship program was created by the NRWA to be managed by individual state associations. As noted on its website, NRWA is the largest public drinking water and sanitation utility organization and represents over 31,000 water and wastewater utilities nationwide.
Consolidated Utility District is the water utility for Rutherford County, and its distribution system currently contains more than 1,400 miles of pipe – which is greater than the distance from Murfreesboro to Albuquerque, New Mexico. The utility’s mission is to provide safe drinking water for all residences, businesses, and governmental agencies – meeting and exceeding all federal and state standards at the lowest possible cost with high quality, efficiency, and integrity.
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