Water and Wastewater Q&A with Timothy Harper Published December 16, 2022

Timothy Harper
Rose State College’s Center for Workforce Excellence recently sponsored its first free D-level (entry-level) water and wastewater class this year. The purpose of the class was to partner with the industry and take on the upfront risk associated with training and licensing fees for those in the community interested in beginning a career in this in-demand field. After passing two DEQ classes and respective certification test, starting wages for the water and wastewater industry are $14-21 per hour. Operators can quickly jump to at least $25 per hour after three years of experience and additional training, which employers pay for along the way. One of our first students for this class, Timothy Harper, recently shared his experience with the class, how it helped him land his current job at Inframark and tips for anyone considering a career change. 

Tell us about your experience with the water and wastewater class. What did you learn?

The water and wastewater class consisted of a comfortable and informative learning environment. The class went over theories I had experience with as a boiler technician in the Navy, where I tested water and oil for Navy ships. I previously worked at power plants but not a water treatment facility. With this job, much of the information crosses over, especially water chemistry. The class allowed me to remember many things I had forgotten, so it was a great refresher. 

It was an excellent program, very in-depth, but easy to wrap your head around it. This is a great way to make more money with a high pay range. 

What previous work experience did you have before taking the class?

I previously worked in building maintenance and served in the Navy. I was a pipe fitter at Tinker Air Force Base and had a long career working in jails and prisons.

Following the class, I was able to get a job at Inframark. The job at Inframark is a good step in the right direction to get some more experience and get back to working at Tinker again. 

Now that you have earned your certification and license and accepted a job with Inframark, what's next for you?

I will be employed as an industrial pretreatment technician. In this job, I will inspect restaurant grease traps to ensure they're working right. 

I'm going to be driving to Oklahoma City, meeting with people that pump grease traps and oil in the ground behind restaurants. They do all the work; they open and pump it out. I walk over when they're done and look inside the tank to ensure it is operating correctly. This includes checking that all the valves are there and that the piping, screens and baffles are working properly. If there's a problem, I will take pictures and create a report. 

How did you hear about this class?

I heard about it on KFOR 4 News. It was early in the morning after waking up, and this class was featured on the news. My wife and I talked about going back to school so that I could get out of my current job. Working at a water treatment plant was something I was interested in looking into because of my experience, but I didn’t have my D license. If you have your license, it’s a good foot in the door. 

How do you feel about being able to earn this fast-paced certification for free?

It’s a very good thing – anyone can do this and pass this test if you stay motivated. I did this because it was free and very quick. I’m going from $12 per hour to more than $18 per hour. I did not have to take off much work, but it paid off in the end anyway. 

What would you tell others who might be interested?

Invest in yourself. Every license, certificate, degree or class you can take to gain more knowledge makes you a better prospective employee because the class will give you the confidence to know that you can understand and do the job, and it shows the employer you have the ability.