Even though she has only been on the board for one full year, Rachel Neville’s passion for bettering the certification process matches those of WPI’s most established members. She has been working in the water industry for 11 years, and her entire career has been spent with one company: Washington Certification Services. WCS is the link between Green River College and the Washington State Department of Health, with their core mission being to help water operators all over the state become certified and meet continuing education requirements. More specifically, Rachel oversees the Backflow Assembly Tester Certification Program at WCS. Every day, she works on behalf of the Department of Health’s Office of Drinking Water.
Rachel’s path has been crossing with WPI since her career in water began. Not only has she learned a lot about the industry while attending WPI conferences, but in doing so, she has also established connections with organizations in other states. This is especially important for someone in Rachel’s position—if the state of Washington needs to come up with a new policy or solution to a problem, Rachel’s connections allow access to resources or precedents for these. Additionally, WPI plays a big role in introducing those in administrative positions at WCS to the certification process. “I look at WPI as the foundation to our success here,” Rachel says. When there was an opportunity for her to support the organization by joining the board, she took it. “It was time to give instead of take,” she stated matter-of-factly.
Rachel is excited about many prospects as a newer WPI board member, particularly in terms of workforce development. Not only are operators in general retiring faster than new operators are being brought in, but she believes the industry also has far to go regarding diversification. “WPI’s position is to be a leader in that concept,” she claims. Rachel is especially focused on increasing the number of women operators in her state, where they currently make up less than 5%. At WCS, she helped develop a women’s awards program for Backwater Assembly Testers, and with this incentive, the percentage has increased from 2.4% to 4%. “We started out small;, but we have a model now and can take things to the next level,” she acknowledges. She is hopeful about improvements the industry is able to make, and reflects on how, for the first time ever, Washington allowed online trainings for continuing education units when COVID hit.
“Change doesn’t have to be this long five-year process. We have proof that we did it overnight…what else can we change?”
Since starting out 11 years ago, Rachel has continuously expanded her own education and appreciation of the industry as a whole. “I have been learning and understanding ever since…that part is never a done job,” she explains. After having two babies, she is especially grateful to be part of the process that allowed her to fill their bottles with clean, safe water. At WPI’s Annual Conference and Trainers Workshop in January 2019, Rachel received the Robert P. McAnespie Certification Program Officer Award in recognition of her contribution to advancing certification in Washington. As a member of the WPI team, there is no doubt she will continue on this upstanding mission.