Published October 2020
Planning in the conditions that prevail, not the ideal conditions we wish we had, has been the day-to-day reality at professional organizations for many months. And professional organizations that serve our industry have been busy doing and adapting as they plan to maintain and amplify their vigor.
Peter Wright, association manager of the WaterJet Technology Association, prepared responses to our questions about WJTA plans.
Wright: For WJTA, the cancellation of the November 2020 WJTA Expo was very disappointing given the positive response to the 2019 Conference & Expo. With the cancellation, however, we have refocused on digital learning, with a new series of free webinars that we believe can reach a broad audience, including individuals who would ordinarily find it challenging to travel and attend a live event.
The shutdowns from COVID-19 have been very challenging for our industry, but many contractors and several manufacturers have been able to find continuing opportunity in decontamination work or equipment, helping to offset reductions in more typical business lines.
The COVID-19 shutdowns have created a difficult business environment and will likely accelerate trends towards automation, robotics, and reduced crew sizes in many industries. This trend will require operators to develop additional skills, reinforcing the importance of career development pathways for both entry level and experienced workers.
WJTA’s recently launched operator training and certification program is one way that the industry can meet these challenges. Creating a standard training foundation for operators across the country with a curriculum that is frequently updated as industry practices evolve reduces the burden on contractors for retraining, records retention, maintaining up-to-date curricula, and much more.
Wright: WJTA did not substitute a formal virtual meeting, but the recently launched webinar series will help make up for the absence of the 2020 Expo educational program. The association has been exploring additional digital processes, including an online streaming option for WJTA’s popular waterjetting and vacuuming videos. Finally, WJTA has been increasingly active on social media to try to connect with members and tradeshow participants through different media.
Wright: WJTA’s new webinar series is a great educational opportunity that is free to all registrants. Another opportunity for waterjetting contractors is the association’s hydroblast operator training and certification program. The operator training includes two parts: computer-based foundational training and instructor-led/hands-on field verification. The field verification in-person training must be delivered by a WJTA-approved verified trainer, but foundational training can be accessed through safety council sites throughout the country.
The foundational training is a three-hour, interactive computer-based course covering the recommendations in the WJTA Industry Best Practices for the Use of High-Pressure Waterjetting Equipment (orange book) along with a multiple-choice verification quiz. Because of its computer-based delivery method, many trainees have continued to receive foundational training throughout the pandemic with the required social distancing.
The WJTA training launch will continue in the United States as the easing of COVID-19 restrictions allows the association to deliver additional in-person train-the-trainer courses to qualify more verified trainers throughout the country, increasing the accessibility of hands-on training in different regions.
Wright: WJTA membership is highly valued as a means to stay informed of new safety practices, technology developments, and industry trends. The COVID-19 shutdowns have created a challenging business climate and will likely accelerate automation trends, making industry connections and updates on technology more important than ever.
It is important to note that many resources available to members, such as the Jet News periodical and online Member Search Directory, are accessible digitally through the association website.
WJTA best practices are frequently reviewed and updated, and members are able to stay informed as changes are made. The member discounts on safety and training materials are another benefit, and many members make up the investment in membership through these savings alone.
Finally, a key aspect of membership is in connecting and growing relationships with peers in the industry. WJTA is a means for members from different areas and different parts of the industry to collaborate in support of our shared mission around industry safety, trade, and workforce development.
Wright: The association’s hydroblast operator training and certification program launched in early 2020, but the COVID-19 restrictions on travel and in-person gatherings have hindered the ability to quickly scale the hands-on aspect of the program. Propagating the program throughout the United States will accelerate throughout the end of 2020 and into 2021. Work is also underway to develop a similar vacuum operator credential based on the association’s blue book.
Revisions to the WJTA vacuum safety video were put on hold due to the COVID-19 shutdown, but work will be resumed with the goal of a 2021 release. At the same time, WJTA is looking ahead to the 2021 WJTA Conference & Expo, with many vendors rolling over their commitments already to next year’s event. The Conference & Expo, which will be held October 26–28 in New Orleans, will include an expanded educational conference program, training opportunities, and most importantly, the chance to reconnect in person as an industry.