Peer-to-Peer Training Delivers Results in Canal Flats
Note to Reader:
When the water utility operators at the Village of Canal Flats heard about the Peer-to-Peer (P2P) training pilot project being led by Columbia Basin Water Smart and the Environmental Operators Certification Program (EOCP), they knew they had a perfect case study for testing the model: in May 2015, water utility staff from Canal Flats contacted Joe McGowan at the City of Cranbrook and requested peer-to-peer training support from Cranbrook utility personnel with expertise in Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) sewer camera operation. The outcomes of this training exercise indicate that the P2P training model provides multiple, cost-effective benefits for peer-to-peer trainers and trainees.
City of Cranbrook Invests in Long-Term Human Resource Capacity for Water Utility Excellence
“By supporting our staff to become EOCP-recognized trainers and to deliver training at home and in nearby communities, we are making a very cost-effective investment in the City’s long-term human resource capacity for water utility excellence, while also meeting our regulatory requirements for continuing education,” stated Joe McGowan, Director of Public Works for the City of Cranbrook
“Canal Flats had been experiencing multiple challenges with recently installed sanitary sewer mains and were unable to determine the source of the problems. Utility personnel at the City of Cranbrook recently registered a relevant in-house training activity with the EOCP (Course #8022 – Uses for CCTV Crawler Cameras – 0.30 Continuing Education Units (CEUs), in-house only, City of Cranbrook). An effective training match and arrangements for an inter-community training activity were made.”
On May 27 the City of Cranbrook sent a flusher truck and an experienced EOCP-certified water operator with CCTV equipment to Canal Flats. Cranbrook’s operator delivered an EOCP-recognized on-site training activity to two Canal Flats operators (and one City of Cranbrook flusher truck operator) while undertaking and documenting CCTV inspections of the reported problem areas. The City of Cranbrook supplied the employees and equipment at no cost to Canal Flats. (Canal Flats hosted the two Cranbrook employees to an excellent lunch!)
“We were experiencing problems that we did not have the technical expertise to solve,” reported Bill Doroshuk, Public Works Coordinator at the Village of Canal Flats. “By collaborating with a water operator from the City of Cranbrook, we are able to learn practical skills in a hands-on setting, properly diagnose the specific problems we were facing, and earn CEUs. This is a very practical training model that gives many benefits to utilities.”
As for the City of Cranbrook, Joe McGowan, Director of Public Works, remarked that, “People ask why I would send my staff to another community during working hours for no charge. The answer is simple: people learn by doing, and they learn even more by teaching. Added to that, the EOCP training registry allows trainers to earn CEUs. By supporting our staff to become EOCP trainers and to deliver training at home and in nearby communities, we are making a very cost-effective investment in the City’s long-term human resource capacity for water utility excellence, while also meeting our regulatory requirements for continuing education.”
- Two Canal Flats operators and one Cranbrook operator gained valuable training and 0.30 CEUs through hands-on operation of CCTV equipment during the inspection of multiple sanitary sewer mains. The CEUs were earned at low cost to both utilities.
- The Canal Flats operators, under the guidance of the Cranbrook operator, were successful in identifying the nature and extent of each of the separate problem areas. The problems identified were significant and resolution can now be addressed by the Village using comprehensive factual information gained during the certified training exercise—problem diagnosis and training in one. They also have gained skilled contacts in another utility that may assist them with future challenges.
- The City of Cranbrook trainer benefited from exposure to another utility, and was able to build relationships while sharing his skill set with operators in another community.
Through the Water Smart P2P pilot project, 11 water operators from six Basin communities have recently become registered as EOCP-recognized trainers in a wide variety of subject matter areas related to water distribution systems. The trainer-operators and their self-developed training activities are listed on the EOCP website in an “in-house training” password-protected section for each community; they are not shown on the publically accessible EOCP website for reasons of operator privacy. This may change in the future, but for now the trainers have expressed a clear preference for limited visibility on the EOCP website.
As of August 2015, 11 new in-house training activities, ranging from .1 to .3 CEUs, have been approved by the EOCP as part of Water Smart’s pilot project, with more to come. The pilot project target is for the eleven volunteer water operators to deliver a minimum of 20 in-house or inter-community training activities by fall 2015.
Water Smart is working with PhD candidate Sarah Breen to conduct a formal evaluation of the P2P pilot program so that a practical assessment of the model and any recommendations for its extension can be delivered to the EOCP and Interior Health Authority, both of which have a vested interest in supporting water operator training in BC.