Environmental Resource Center adds new courses

By James Walls
Copy Editor


Local-ICONThis semester, 18 new short courses are to be offered on the Neosho campus at the Environmental Resource Center (ERC) located in Smith Hall. These courses will help those interested in a certificate in utility management, water treatment and wastewater treatment, as well as those interested in furthering their education in these fields.

“We’re the state designated training facility, designated by the Department of Natural Resources [DNR], to do this kind of training,” said Autumn Sweet, Administrative Assistant for the ERC. “All of our classes that we do short-course-wise are all approved by DNR.”

Sweet worked with the schedules and made the arrangements necessary to take their courses and add to their number considerably. And while each of the courses can be taken individually, Sweet suggests they be taken in blocks in order to get employed.

“Students are much more successful if they take the program as a block,” said Sweet. “They can hit and miss, but the ultimate goal of the program is to pass their state certification, and so that’s what that block is designed to do.”

“Ultimately we want to get people ready and able to be employed,” said Karen Conrad, an instructor and coordinator for the ERC. Conrad is the only full-time instructor for the ERC, teaching both traditional and online classes.

Water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators are said to be one of the top 10 jobs Americans can’t live without, according to Reader’s Digest. And while being a job of vital importance, it is said within the next 10 years that operators are foreseen to be in short supply, making it a field with easy access for those who have the skills and desire to earn their certification in this area.

The field is made up of four certification levels, ranging from D, which is entry level, to A.

“We train people at the entry level position, and the way that they upgrade they’re licensure is either by experience or equivalent education, which most all of the upgrades require at least half of that be by actual experience,” Sweet stated, relating the process for this field of work.

After earning their certificates, students in these fields are required to take 30 renewal credit hours every three years, which is where these 18 new courses are important. All of the classes being offered have the same renewal credit hours for water treatment, wastewater treatment, CAFO (Confined Animal Feeding Operations), and distribution system 1, 2 or 3 operators.

“So what we’re offering on campus are courses that you get training credit hours across the board for those four different levels of certificates,” Conrad said, elaborating on these courses.

For Norma Wendleton, an environmental health major, though she has yet to enroll in any of the new courses, she feels the courses she has taken so far should help greatly with her future career.

“You have to do internships and stuff, so that’s where it starts bringing it all together,” Wendleton said, relating her view on the process.

So why choose a degree in Environmental Health Technology? According to Sweet, the field is full of many benefits for those interested.

“It’s an absolutely great opportunity,” said Sweet, discussing the benefits of a certificate in these fields. “If you want to advance yourself, you’ve got the option. With the certification you can upgrade with more education, more experience. You’re kind of in charge; you’re in the driver’s seat. Every time you upgrade your license you’re that much more employable.”