High Schoolers Get Hands-On Training at Madison Water Utility

As part of a youth internship program at Madison (Wisconsin) Water Utility, three students joined the team for hands-on training this summer

High Schoolers Get Hands-On Training at Madison Water Utility

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Most high schoolers probably don’t think much about water meters. “Honestly, I’d never seen a water meter before,” admits 17-year-old Erika Hosokawa.

Or about hose bib vacuum breakers.

“I didn’t think of them at all,” says Raymond Weinert. “This was not in my mind.”

Or pretty much anything having to do with a water utility.

“All I knew is that they take care of water,” says Jerrod Smith.

But Hosokawa, Weinert and Smith aren’t typical teenagers anymore. They’ve spent the last two months getting hands-on training at Madison Water Utility through the Wanda Fullmore Youth Internship Program .

“I’ve been taking apart and putting back together repaired meters that are brought in from the field, like from apartments or houses. And then we test them on these water benches at different flow rates,” Hosokawa says. “We do a high, medium and low flow test, running water at different pressures and quantities to see how accurately they’re reading.”

Weinert and Smith spent their summer learning about water quality and testing.

“We’ve been doing a lot of sampling at wells and distribution sites. And we’ve been doing hose-connection and vacuum-breaker surveys like we’re doing now,” says Smith as he walks down a quiet street in Madison’s Tenney-Lapham neighborhood.

“We’re outside looking around people’s houses for hose bibs and checking to see if they have vacuum breakers on them,” Weinert adds.

For their summer internship, Weinert and Smith became part of a water quality team that inspects outdoor spigots and works to educate homeowners about vacuum breakers.

“I’ve learned a lot about why we do this and how the vacuum breakers help and what they prevent,” says Smith. “It’s just a new experience.”

From intern to employee

Madison Water Utility has hosted Wanda Fullmore interns since the program started three years ago, after the retirement of long-time city employee Wanda Fullmore. The program gives high school students the chance to become involved in city government and get training and employment.

“The Wanda Fullmore Program exposes kids in our community to future career opportunities,” says Rick Marx, meter operations supervisor at the utility. “It’s a win-win both for our need to create a diverse workforce that represents our community and the need to have good-paying, family-supporting jobs so young people can find rewarding careers in their own hometown.”

Marx hired Wanda Fullmore intern Vinh Tang as a permanent Madison Water Utility employee after Vinh’s internship ended in 2017. “It was clear pretty quickly what his work ethic was. It made me feel like he would be a good employee for us to hire.”

For Hosokawa, interning at Madison Water Utility meant learning about a lot more than water meters.

“This has been a good experience for showing how to be in an actual workplace,” she says. “Before, I didn’t really know much about water distribution or how much effort goes into planning and working together across the different utility departments.”

“It feels rewarding,” says Weinert. “I guess it feels like I belong doing what I’m doing. And it feels really good.”

Source: City of Madison – Madison Water Utility


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