In an effort to build better a more amicable relationship with the community, Veolia, the company that manages the wastewater treatment plant in Richmond, has instituted an internship program geared at employing local residents. The company is already through the first stages of selecting two interns, said Jamal Muhammad, the Community Outreach Coordinator for Veolia, who is also a Richmond native.
After a year and half, interns will become certified wastewater treatment plant operators and will be able to clean out the tanks, take measurements and monitor machinery to make sure things operate correctly.
Veolia will pay for the two interns who are selected to take the necessary wastewater management courses and tests that are required by California. Veolia is even prepared to buy the interns’ course books, said Muhammad.
California requires that wastewater manager operators have 2,080 hours working at facility, in addition to the courses. “From what I know that is the hardest and most difficult part of getting your license,” said Muhammad. “There are cases when a person has to volunteer at a wastewater plant to get those hours.”
Veolia, along with Contra Costa County, will pay the two interns during their 2,080 hours of being mentored by Veolia wastewater operators. After six months, Veolia will offer health benefits to the interns.
It is possible that after the internship is completed there won’t be available positions at the Richmond facility, said Muhammad. But after going through the certification process—the courses, the tests, and the mentoring hours—those interns will be qualified to work at any wastewater treatment plant, including those run by the East Bay Municipal Utilities District.
All of the approximately 40 initial applicants for the position were enrolled in RichmondWorks, a local job placement center. They encouraged nontraditional and racially diverse applicants since diversity is one of the strengths Richmond has to offer, said Muhammed. “We had applicants form all over the spectrum, especially females,” he said.
Veolia had whittled that initial pool of applicants down to eight—five men and three woman—a couple of weeks ago and took them on a tour of the plant. “They got the good, bad, the ugly of the industry—the sludge, the filthy things of the plant,” said Muhammad. After the tour, one applicant dropped out.
Of the remaining seven, Muhammad hopes to pick two by the end of next week.