How a community college is working to help fill the water industry's talent shortage

Industries such as energy, telecommunications and water and wastewater have a common problem. Their workforces are retiring at an alarming rate and replacements for those skilled employees are increasingly hard to find. The College of the Canyons (COC), a Santa Clarita, California community college that offers a Water Systems Technology program, encountered another problem: the commercially available textbooks were out-of-date and very expensive. The story below explains how COC faculty and their partners took a very hands-on and innovative approach to resolving the issue. It's also an interesting example of the value of collaboration as a problem solving tool. — Doug Peeples


COC's Water Systems Technology program offers certificate and degree programs to prepare students to prepare them to become state-certified as water treatment, water distribution and wastewater operators.

But the available textbooks were inadequate and expensive, which prompted two COC faculty members to write two textbooks for the program some years ago.

Since then, with the help of a grant from the state chancellor's office, COC is offering what it refers to as a

Zero Textbook Cost pathway. By collaborating with the South Central Coast Regional Consortium (a group of 8 member colleges, which includes COC), COC faculty, professionals in the water industry and contractors, the partners produced current Open Educational Resource materials tailored to the needs of students preparing for careers in the water industry.

As Brian Weston, project manager for the Zero Textbook Cost at the college, explained "We are very excited to offer this completely Zero Textbook Cost pathway in Water Technology that provides students with the latest developments of knowledge in the field and has been personalized to match the educational rigor of the courses."

The program is expected to help approximately 400 students this year, and the pathway program will be available to water technology programs statewide as a no-cost alternative to commercial textbooks.

Doug Peeples is a Portland, Oregon-based writer specializing in technology and energy. Follow @smartccouncil on Twitter.