A Convenient, Inexpensive Approach to Wastewater Operator Training

The Fox Valley Operators Association in Illinois draws more than 300 attendees to an annual mini-conference that includes seminars and vendor exhibits.
A Convenient, Inexpensive Approach to Wastewater Operator Training
The Fox Valley Operators Association created a one-day mini-session, complete with vendors, educational sessions and more.

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So you have a local operators’ group whose members can’t get time off to attend a two- or three-day state or regional conference. How can you help your members get the education they need to become more proficient and advance toward higher licenses?

The Fox Valley Operators Association, serving professionals in the northeast corner of Illinois, has found an answer in an annual one-day mini-conference. It’s typically held in a city garage or other city-owned building, and it includes a full day of technical sessions. About 50 vendors exhibit their equipment. The attendees don’t have to drive far or stay overnight.

In other words, it’s convenient and inexpensive ($30 for members and $50 for non-members with pre-registration), yet it gives operators quality education and a look at technologies from brand new to old and proven.

Meeting a need
“It started eight years ago,” says Luke Markko, president of the association and a Class 1 operator with the Village of Wauconda. “Our board and the education committee wanted to offer a quality education and networking event for our membership.

“Primarily it’s the managers and supervisors who attend the large conferences like Central States WEA that last multiple days. We wanted an event geared toward the average operator who may not have the opportunity to get away from work for that length of time. It has turned out to be pretty successful.”

About 200 attended the first mini-conference; more than 300 attended in 2013. This year’s event, on Aug. 21 in the Carpentersville Public Works garage, includes about 50 vendor exhibits and nine technical sessions that offer continuing education credit in:

  • Confined-space safety
  • Data security
  • Lubrication and preventive maintenance
  • Wet-weather BOD removal
  • Biogas cogeneration basics
  • Biogas cogeneration case study
  • Pretreatment case study
  • Regulatory updates from the Illinois EPA
  • Operators’ forum (free-form idea sharing)

Volunteer production
“Lunch is included in the registration fee,” says Markko. “There are door prizes. We encourage vendors to bring equipment to demonstrate. A key to our success is most of the work is done by volunteers. A lot of people pitch in to deliver a good product. We’ve also been fortunate to have access to large city facilities with space donated to us. That keeps the cost down for our members.”

For operator associations that might want to offer something similar to the FVOA’s conference, Markko advises, “Find out what your membership wants. Take a poll and see if this is a direction they would want to go. Start small and constantly strive to improve year after year. Survey your group after each event and find out what needs to change.”

After eight years, the FVOA has established credibility and is a fixture on the yearly calendar.

“Our members continue to ask us to do it again,” says Markko. “I don’t see us stopping anytime soon.”

To find out more, contact Markko at 847/815-9696 or visit http://www.fvoa-Illinois.org.


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