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Friday, March 24, 2023

YukonU aims to bring training videos to future water treatment operators across Canada

John Widney can’t help but smile as he talks about the way students studying to be water treatment operators are being taught today.

“It would have been an easier learning process that’s for sure,” said Widney.

Widney is an instructor in the wastewater operator program at Yukon University in Whitehorse.

That process he’s referring to is a new learning tool the university is developing in partnership with the Calgary NGO Water Movement.

A QR code on a piece of equipment. (George Maratos/CBC)

For the past week Widney and Bita Malekian, a Water Movement ambassador, have been stationed in the university’s mobile water treatment plant, applying QR codes to various pieces of equipment. 

Each one of the codes will eventually be connected to a different YouTube video, available in an online learning library.

“What we’ve been doing is filming John the expert,” said Malekian. “The students just open their phone and scan it over the QR code and they are taken to the training video.”

Young woman, smiling.
Bita Malekian is an ambassador with the Calgary-based Water Movement. (George Maratos/CBC)

In total about 20 different videos are being created.

“It’s actually been quite the neat experience recording all the videos,” said Widney. “It’s a bit nerve-wracking to be on camera but I don’t mind because it’s a really good project, and important.”

‘Short-handed all around’

The new way of teaching could not come at a better time.

Widney, who’s worked in the industry for 20 years and operates a plant himself, estimates that only 10 per cent of water treatment jobs in the Yukon are staffed.

“Every plant that I’ve been into, they are all always looking for more operators, from the big city of Whitehorse to the village of Haines Junction to my little subdivision in the middle of nowhere — it’s short-handed all around,” said Widney.

“The water industry is so huge and it will never stop, we’ll always need water treatment for as long as we are on this planet.”

Someone holds an iPhone over a QR code sticker on a piece of equipment.
Help is just a website away for future water treatment plant operators. (George Maratos/CBC)

Once the videos created in the Yukon are complete, they will be added to Water Movement’s website.

Malekian says the intention is to provide the knowledge via their online library to whomever wants it, with the big goal being more Indigenous water operators and through that, clean water for all Canadians.

“It’s really a national shame that we still have 33 long-term water advisories in Canada,” said Malekian. “Canada has one of the largest freshwater reserves and we still see so many First Nations without access to clean water.

“Indigenous water treatment operators are really the hidden heroes working to deliver clean water to their community, and any way we can support them and provide them with resources, we’re trying to fill that gap.”

The new training videos are expected to go live on Water Movement’s website this spring.

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