Checking In #48: The Future of Professional Education

Sept. 16, 2021
In this episode of Checking In, we check in with Tanya Lubner of the WQA on the new certified treatment designer title from WQA and touch on the future of education for water treatment professionals.

In this episode of Checking In: A Series With WQP, WQP Managing Editor Lauren Del Ciello checks in with Tanya Lubner, professional certification and training director for the Water Quality Association (WQA). WQA recently released the Certified Treatment Designer (CTD) seal, a new professional certification designed for people who work in business-to-business sales and support. In this chat, Del Ciello and Lubner discuss the new CTD title, the value of professional certification and the future of education for water treatment professionals.

Key moment (13:29): “After a while, you really start to feel like the industry is a family,” Tanya Lubner of WQA said on seeing colleagues at upcoming in-person events.

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Brief Transcript

*Responses have been edited for clarity and length. Listen to the full conversation from the Checking In series at

Lauren Del Ciello: What is the new certified treatment designer title? Who is it for?

Tanya Lubner: The Certified Treatment Designer (CTD) is primarily for business-to-business professionals working in technical sales and technical support. What is nice it that it is fairly flexible. It lends itself well as initial training for R&D engineers. They come in with lots of engineering knowledge but usually very little water treatment knowledge, so this helps them get oriented. We are seeing interest in it also from environmental health professionals; so they are the ones that are going out to the private wells and making sure that the water quality is up to snuff.

Del Ciello: How does this meet a need and differ from other previously available certification opportunities?

Lubner: It is not hugely different from what we currently have and it would not make sense for it to be all that different. I am going to give you a little background because I think it helps to understand where we came from and how we got to yet another certification credential. Back in 2012 or so, we started working on this online training program and we really wanted to have something that the incoming generation could get excited about. As part of that we saw an opportunity to fill what was starting to look like a knowledge-skills gap as well as a little bit of a credibility gap in drinking water applications. We could see that the spotlight was shifting a bit, so point-of-use/point-of-entry was getting more consideration for addressing drinking water hazards — not anywhere near as much as after Flint [Michigan] or what is going on now with PFAS — but we could see it coming. We wanted to take advantage of this new program of re-doing the training a bit to make sure that our industries stay credible, especially as we get into drinking water [where] there are already so many state programs focused on public water systems, that if we wanted to be taken seriously by them we needed to have a program that bestowed certification for more than just reading a book — which was optional — and passing a test. We needed something that had a little bit of teeth to it.

So what we decided was the best way to do it was to first of all change the training a little, update it, add more drinking water focus, and add an experiential component. This worked really well for dealers and dealership employees because they are in the field on a regular basis and the program helps document their experience, so that when we go to the regulators and go to the environmental health professionals we can tell them, “Look, we have people with this experience, not only that, but they have studied and they have passed the test.” That gives us a much stronger accepted program.

[...] So this worked great for dealers, but the problem was that it kind of left the manufacturers out because of these requirement for hands-on activities. It has been a long time coming but we have finally created something that makes a lot of sense for manufacturers, takes advantage of their daily on-the-job experience and gives them the credit for that by giving them this pathway to credentials.

Del Ciello: What is the value of professional certification?

Lubner: Two words come to mind — and I have asked this question of our certified professionals so it is not just me saying it, this is what I hear back from them —  it is credibility and it is confidence. Having those letters after your name is instant credibility. And the confidence, you feel like you have learned what you need to learn and you can explain that to your customers. You can show them that they can be confident in your skills. There is more than that. There is the marketing aspect and there is also a bit of ROI in terms of time savings because once you have learned to do things the right way, you will not have to spend time correcting your mistakes. It certainly helps from the efficiency side, but I think credibility is probably the biggest one.