Western Maricopa Education Center (West-MEC) – a public career technical education district – began instruction in its newly-founded Environmental Sustainability Program in the 2020-21 school year.
The one-year program prepares students with laboratory and technical knowledge for entry-level water services positions. Students use the engineering process to understand and solve complex problems pertaining to the water cycle, water and wastewater treatment.
Beside classroom learning, West-MEC students have access to a variety of lab equipment including water microbiology cultures, solar panels, a machine that simulates the water cycle in a river with rain and more.
Upon completion of the program, students will be eligible to test for an Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) Water Treatment Operator Level I certification, making them immediately eligible for employment upon graduation from high school should they choose that route.
“What we’re going to do is prepare them in the environmental field. That could be environmental engineering, environmental tech, and the water treatment industry or anything else in that industry. We don’t know where these kids are going to go, but we want them prepared for success wherever they choose to make a career,” said instructor Rick Timmons.
Timmons said there is room for the program to grow, as the curriculum improves over time. What he knows, though, is there will be plenty of jobs and chances for further education come the time West-MEC’s students finish his program.
“Almost every large corporation has an environmental department, anything from one engineer to a whole team, but there’s jobs all over that need people with this skill set. So, the outlook is good,” he said.