This year, WQP closes out its final issue with our youngest interviewee yet: 11-year-old Gitanjali Rao. (At least, I’m assuming she’s the youngest—I’ve only been around for seven of WQP’s nearly 23 years!)
As winner of the 2017 Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge, Rao has proven herself to be an exceptional young woman. Inspired by the water contamination crisis in Flint, Mich., she developed an easy-to-use testing device to detect lead in water. Unlike other testing methods, which might require a homeowner to send water samples to a laboratory, Rao’s device can be used to test water onsite, providing results nearly instantaneously via a mobile app.
It’s great to see a young person so interested in the water quality challenges facing our country, and we can only hope that Rao continues her interest in the topic as she pursues her academic and professional careers. For more from Rao and her 3M mentor, turn to page 50.
Inspiring and encouraging young people to enter the water treatment field has become a persistent challenge for the industry over the years. In WQP’s annual State of the Industry survey, respondents ranked finding qualified employees as one of the top impacts on their companies, with 34% saying “lack of skilled workforce” had a negative effect on business over the past 12 months. Survey respondents expected it to continue to be a concern in the coming years. Responses to an open-ended question about the greatest challenges facing businesses in the next 24 months ranged from “finding good help” to “qualified and motivated people” to “competent workforce.”
The need to develop the next generation of water professionals becomes even more poignant as many dealers reach retirement age. In this State of the Industry survey, more than 55% of respondents were 50 years or older. As dealers plan for retirement, passing on their knowledge to that next generation will be key to keeping the industry reputable and prosperous.
With so many water quality-related events occurring across the country, from the Flint lead contamination crisis to the recent hurricanes, public awareness of water quality and treatment concerns is continually increasing. Hopefully this will help inspire the next generation of water treatment professionals to join this crucial industry.
On a final note, I’d like to take the opportunity to say farewell to the readers of WQP as I welcome the next generation of my own family. I am signing off as editor-in-chief in order to spend more time with our newborn baby girl. It has been wonderful getting to know many of you and being a part of this rewarding industry. Wishing everyone happy holidays and the best of luck in your future business endeavors!