Water Matters: Watering jobs

Same time last year I directed this column to Sequim High School graduates with encouragement to consider a career involving water. My daughter was one of those graduates and I learned more about her aspirations the other day as we moved her home for the summer.

No major declared yet, but “Water” isn’t a choice offered anyway, for some odd reason.

In the year since I wrote on this topic, job prospects in water or STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) in general probably haven’t changed a lot — but they are going up. This work always will be vital all over the world. For example, as the clean energy industry takes off, workers are needed from research to manufacturing — preferably in the U.S. and Washington.

Recently I represented the City of Sequim at the “Career Connected Learning” workshop broadcast at Peninsula College and facilitated by the WSU Extension Office. This initiative is from the National Governor’s Association and Gov. Jay Inslee and other stakeholders presented the argument for improving the state’s workforce by intentionally exposing students to potential careers from an early age.

I sat at a table with Sequim schools superintendent Gary Neal, who is very excited to see increasing support for integrating exposure to workplace environments into school curricula. The proposal is not just for high schoolers but would start when children are very young.

It calls for better connections between business, educators and students through partnerships, mentorships, apprenticeships and other opportunities. The more visible these are the more likely the participation and support.

Indeed, the Sequim City Council and Sequim School District board each have had a very visible connection to the Sequim High School for the past two years with their student liaisons, juniors and seniors chosen competitively and willing to spend several hours twice a month participating in the governing process.

This year, SHS senior Emily Straling offered a youth’s viewpoint on policy issues being discussed by the city council and was very articulate about it. She also regularly announced an impressive list of activities in addition to academics and sports. This liaison program will be repeated on additional public boards next school year, providing new connections that should be enlightening for students and the broader community.

It’s not private business, but it is definitely public business.

I grew up in a small resort town with limited exposure to career professionals — not unlike Sequim. I remember that we assumed a career in science or the arts was risky because where are those jobs? Engineering was a mystery until after I’d already received my Bachelor of Arts degree from a small college.

And I had no concept of local government operations, with the county seat many miles away.

My and my daughter’s classmates all would have benefited from observing adults enjoying their work and co-workers in a variety of settings before we set out to pursue a job or career.

What makes a kid actually want to work, beyond the paycheck? Inspiration.

What gets kids inspired? What makes them want to pursue something creative, or make tangible things, or help people heal, or work with animals — or water? I believe it’s seeing someone else do it with their own eyes.

Seeds are planted and watered in all sorts of ways, but book learning in school is only one of those — and it misses a lot of kids. That leaves the rest of the community to help inspire our children by including them in our business, our work and why we enjoy it.

Water Geek Moment

For the 2017 water year (started last Oct.) on June 12:

• In Sequim, cumulative rainfall = 14.8 inches (very high)

• Dungeness River at Mile 11.8, flow = 585 cfs (typical non-storm flow, but perhaps lower than if it weren’t freezing at night up high)

• Bell Creek flow into Carrie Blake Park = dry, unless it’s raining; at the mouth = 1 cfs. (1 cfs is just under 650,000 gallons per day)

Ann Soule is a hydrogeologist immersed in the Dungeness watershed since 1990, now resource manager for City of Sequim. Reach Soule at columnists@sequimgazette.com or via her blog at watercolumnsite.wordpress.com.

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