Not all facilities share the same benefits in training, but the Des Moines Wastewater Plant has invested in the success of their operators with Tim Runde, PO. Tim is the Wastewater Training Specialist for the premises, which is a rare role dedicated to the training and betterment of operators as well as administering the apprenticeship program for the operator specialist. This puts him in the unique position of working in depth with operators in all focus areas. It also means that his days vary based on what is beneficial to the facility.
It is rare for a facility to have an allocated training specialist; it grants an advantage to not only the operator, but the overall work environment. It also gives new operators a role model and safe space to start their career. When there is a focus on education and training, experienced operators can dedicate attention to the job at hand, those learning can focus on education and asking questions, and the trainer can give them attention to details that may be missed otherwise.
I had the opportunity to observe Tim as he prepared and executed a training with a small group. He began by reviewing basics and safety. “Handle everything as if it’s pathogenic or hazardous.” He advises this in the classroom to help ensure it is second nature in the field. Tim also stressed that even though it may seem like a “for-fun” class, the operators still need to handle everything with accuracy and precision. When they have a space to do hands-on work without the pressure of in-field risk, they are able to develop the skills in a safe environment, so they are better prepared for field work.
A key function of Tim’s job is to keep an open eye or ear to problem areas around the treatment facility. If he notices a few operators struggling with one concept, he is able to develop a targeted training course. It also permits operators to continually improve their skills and ensures they are learning in a way that works best for them without putting a pause on the essential work that must be done.
For someone to fill this position, they must be an industry expert with years of knowledge and experience to ensure accurate information is passed on. Tim has proven himself as such and has recently attained his Wastewater Treatment Class IV certification through the Professional Operator program. It is a proud accomplishment for him personally, but also for the facility and the many operators he influences. WPI is honored to highlight an operator who is so excited to share his knowledge and always working to improve his skill!