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public utilities management

Students tour RWA’s Control Room. Jacob Lessne; Eddie Ramirez; Bryan McLean, Operations Team Lead; John Santos; Karl-Marx Delphonse

South Central Connecticut Regional Water Authority (RWA) hosted a tour for Southern Connecticut State University School of Business students on January 17 at its 90 Sargent Drive location.

RWA has partnered with SCSU to create a unique Public Utilities Management Program to address the fact that the nature of public utility operations is rapidly changing in the New England region. The industry faces the common challenges of an aging workforce, looming retirements, aging infrastructure, additional regulations, and heightened financial burdens, and Connecticut’s utility companies are seeking skilled managerial and technical workers.

The Public Utilities Management Program is designed to align with career tracks in water, wastewater, gas and electric utility management. Coursework and internships will enable students to gain theoretical and practical hands-on knowledge important for working in public utilities.

A group of interested students from a variety of Business Administration concentrations, including management, finance, and marketing joined RWA employee Jim Hill, operations special projects manager, and Paul Ruggiero, Regional Water Authority police captain, on a tour that introduced students to the Control Room, which is the heart of the vast RWA operations; the Water Quality Department, where students learned how the RWA ensures our drinking water is consistently safe; and the Finance Department, where students heard about how rates are designated and how financial planning is utilized to fund the vast expense of maintaining the infrastructure of the water treatment and delivery.

Students also visited the largest water treatment facility in the Regional Water Authority’s network, Lake Gaillard in North Branford. This station supplies an average of 32 million gallons of water daily, representing approximately 60 percent of the average number of gallons that RWA pumps daily, and has a total capacity of 80 million gallons per day. Students also got to see Lake Gaillard up close, thanks to the access road that surrounds the lake and is a whopping seven miles long.

“Public utilities face a potential watershed in the shortage of young people applying to take the place of our aging and retiring workforce,” said Larry Bingaman, president and CEO of the RWA. “It is this challenge that led to our unique partnership creating the Public Utility Management Degree programs at SCSU and Gateway Community College. Their success will allow the RWA and other utilities to continue delivering our life-sustaining products and services for generations to come.”

The SCSU School of Business understands the importance of both bringing members of the business community to campus to talk with students, and exposing students to the day-to-day operations of the local employers. Immersive experiences complement the rigorous classroom curriculum offered at SCSU, and provide students with the well-rounded understanding that makes them some of the most sought-after employees in our region.

There will be an informational session and lunch on the SCSU Public Utilities Management program on February 26, 2020, at 1 pm at the School of Business. To learn more about the program, or to RSVP for the info session, contact Amy Grotzke at grotzkea1@southernct.edu.

Public utilities management is a field with an abundance of well-paying jobs and a soon-to-be-crucial deficit of managerial and technological staff. Utilities are major employers in Connecticut and nationwide; they provide approximately 10 percent of all job opportunities in the state, or about 5,000 workers, according to the Department of Labor. Of that percentage, nearly one-third of the workforce are eligible to retire within five years. The departments facing the most pressing hiring needs in the public utility field include field operations, employee relations, information technology, purchasing, customer service, and finance and quality assurance. The average salaries range between $55,600 and $75,833.

Southern is one of just a few colleges in the United States equipped to prepare the next generation of industry leadership. The university has created a pathway for students to receive the education necessary to fill these projected openings: a specialization in public utilities management within the Bachelor of Science degree program in business administration. A substantial amount of scholarship money is available to students who enroll in Southern’s new program: annually renewable scholarships of $4,000 per year will be available for full-time students and $2,000 for part-time students, thanks to support from the Regional Water Authority (RWA) and Avangrid, a leading sustainable energy company. Students may also transfer to Southern’s program after earning a certificate or associate degree in public utilities management at nearby Gateway Community College.

The pathway was developed in close consultation with many of the state’s utilities including the RWA, The Metropolitan District, United Illuminating, and Eversource. A public utility management leadership advisory group comprised of top officials in the field — such as Lori Mathieu from the Connecticut Department of Health, Betsy Gara of Connecticut Water Works Association, and David Benoit from the Connecticut Water Service — has provided the vision, advocacy, and support for the program.

“Public utilities face a potential watershed in the shortage of young people applying to take the place of our aging and retiring workforce,” said Larry Bingaman, the RWA’s president and CEO, who said the new program is a plus for all participants. “The utilities gain a pool of qualified candidates to assume management and technical positions; SCSU has a new curriculum that meets the needs of local utilities; and the students gain new career opportunities.”

The new program at Southern will include 30 credits that focus on management of public utilities, such as water, gas, electric, and wastewater. New courses in asset and infrastructure management, green energy and environmental sustainability, crisis/risk management, and workforce safety and industry regulatory codes will be part of the program.

“I know of no other bachelor’s degree program in the United States that focuses specifically on public utilities management,” said Diane VanDe Hei, executive director of the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies, an association of the largest publicly-owned drinking water utilities in the United States. “This unique program should fill a void in the development of future water utility leaders.”

The program will also include existing courses – such as business communications, business law, public utility/governmental accounting, and business continuity planning – which will have sections tailored to focus on elements of utilities management.

“The utilities demonstrated a serious need for this type of training because of the demographic trends and anticipated retirements,” said Ellen Durnin, dean of the SCSU School of Business. “At Southern, one of our commitments is to meet the needs of the state workforce – this is exactly the type of program that will accomplish that goal.”

Read more about Southern’s public utilities management program.

For further information, contact the program coordinator:
Dr. Gregory Robbins
Associate Professor of Management
Southern Connecticut State University
School of Business
(203) 392-5865

3 new undergraduate programs

Three recently approved programs promise to meet workforce needs and prepare Southern students for jobs in exciting, rapidly evolving fields.

The university is adding Bachelor of Science degree programs in biotechnology and in environmental systems and sustainability studies, both of which will start this fall. While the two programs are rooted in science, they will be multidisciplinary in nature to provide students with the breadth of knowledge and the tools to take on real world issues.

Meanwhile, a concentration in public utility management – within the Bachelor of Science degree program in business administration – is designed to focus on utilities, such as water, gas, electric and wastewater. The program also is interdisciplinary and intended to provide students with an opportunity to fill managerial and technological job openings that are occurring as a result of the aging of the workforce in the public utilities field.

The B.S. in biotechnology requires 32 credits in biology and 23-24 credits in the related areas of math, physics and chemistry. The program will include a combination of existing courses and several new courses – such as Introduction to Bioinformatics and Seminar in Biotechnology. It also will provide students with internship opportunities with bioscience companies throughout the region.

“We are very excited to offer this major,” said Nicholas Edgington, an associate professor of biology who will serve as coordinator of the new program. “Jobs – good, high paying jobs – are plentiful in this cutting-edge field. Students will come away with a background that will enable them to be competitive for these biotechnology positions.”

Christine Broadbridge, dean of the School of Graduate Studies, Research and Innovation, said she is thrilled with the launch of the degree program. She noted its connection with the Bioscience Academic and Career Pathway Initiative (BioPath) — a partnership between Southern and the city of New Haven that was designed specifically to meet the workforce needs of area biotech companies.

“We have optimized our courses to align with the needs of local industry,” Broadbridge said. “Students will be uniquely prepared for internships with these companies and for immediate employment.”

Examples of biotechnology uses include the biopharmaceutical industry to treat or cure diseases, such as cancer; testing the body’s reaction to medical devices, and clinical genetic testing.

The B.S. in environmental systems and sustainability studies will offer students the chance to focus on one of three concentrations within the major – environmental systems, coastal marine systems, and environmental policy and management.

“It really is going to be an exciting program,” said Vincent Breslin, professor of the environment, geography and marine sciences, who helped organize the major. “It takes a holistic, multidisciplinary approach to environmental and sustainability issues.

“As an example, let’s take climate change. Sure, the solution sounds simple – eliminate the use of fossil fuels. But realistically, that’s not going to happen anytime soon. So, what are our options? What steps can we take? The students will look at those options and the social and economic consequences they could have on society. There is a need for professionals who understand the complexities associated with environmental problems and solutions,” he said.

The program will require students to take about 40 credits in their major, differing slightly based on their concentration. All students will take 15 foundational credits, including an introduction to environmental and marine studies, an introduction to the principles of sustainability and a research methods course. They will also will complete an experiential component, such as an internship, research experience and participating in a seminar.

Breslin said the major incorporates various disciplines – including biology, geography, earth science, environmental studies, marine studies, public health, political science and business management.

The public utilities management concentration requires 30 credits, including courses in crisis/risk management, green energy and environmental sustainability, and workforce safety and industry regulatory codes. It also includes courses in business communications, business law, public utility/governmental accounting, and business continuity planning.

The program is a collaborative effort that also includes public utility companies in the region and Gateway Community College. Students at Gateway can earn a certificate or an associate degree in public utility management, and then transfer to Southern to pursue a B.S. in business administration with a concentration in public utility management.

The departments facing the most pressing hiring needs in the public utility field include customer service, field operations, employee relations, information technology, purchasing, and finance and quality assurance, according to an industry study conducted by SCSU and Gateway.

“At Southern, one of our commitments is to meet the needs of the state workforce,” said Ellen Durnin, provost and vice president for academic affairs. “This is exactly the type of program that will accomplish that goal. At the same time, it will provide our students with skills necessary for a career in that field.”