Wednesday – May 23, 2018

MATC’s Commitment to Environmental Health and Water Quality Education Spans More than 40 Years

July 2014

students test water

MATC Instructor Jerry Ortiz and students test water at Covered Bridge Park in Cedarburg.Seated (l to r),
Ortiz and Jennifer Evans. Standing (l to r) Dolca Oyola Lebron, Leah Roberto and Terrance Pugh.

The Milwaukee area has received international attention as a "freshwater hub" in recent years, in part due to the establishment of the Water Council which coordinates local water research, education and economic development for the region's $10.5 billion share of the global water market. But managing water quality is not a new undertaking in the region. Milwaukee Area Technical College has been training students in the environmental health and water quality field since 1969.

Born out of the increased attention to pollution and the environment in the 1960s, the Milwaukee Health Department and water utilities turned to MATC for help in training current and prospective employees to manage the local water supply. Employees of the Milwaukee Health Department and utilities were the first instructors to teach in the MATC associate degree program that was developed to meet that need, explained Kathy Bates, instructional chair for what is now called the environmental health and water quality technology associate degree program. "MATC really has a long and rich history of helping manage local water resources," she said.

Environmental Health
A student titrates water in this 1978 photo. MATC's environmental health and water quality associate degree program has been offered since 1969.

Over the years, the program has changed names several times, but the goal of training has remained the same – to prepare workers to promote environmental protection, improvement and sustainability through a focus on water, food and air resources.

Unwavering Commitment to Providing Healthy Water Supply
Jerry Ortiz, who has taught in the program since 1973, reflected on the developments he has seen over the past four decades. "Some of the instruments and processes have changed over the years, but MATC's commitment to training people to ensure a clean water supply has never wavered. Government funding for water projects has not always been readily available, but our program has been steady. We've always been dedicated to training students to work in this crucial field to ensure the safety and preservation of a healthy water supply."

Just as it did in the 1960s, MATC remains responsive to needs of the local water industry and government. Working with the Water Council, the Milwaukee Area Workforce Investment Board (MAWIB), local government, other colleges and universities, and more than 150 water technology companies in the region, MATC has taken a leadership position in meeting the training needs of the region.

MATC Took Lead in Half Million Dollar NSF Grant
In 2011, MATC received a $498,216 grant from the National Science Foundation to form a regional partnership of technical colleges, workforce investment boards, school districts and water-driven businesses to train water technology professionals to meet the growing workforce demands of the water industry in southeastern Wisconsin.

Dubbed "H2Options," the grant was designed to develop technical certificates in water technology, establish high school and university articulation agreements to create career pathways for students to continue their education in the field, recruit students for these educational programs, and develop water-related internships and service learning opportunities.

The Water Council, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Waukesha County Technical College and STEM Forward are among other members of the H2Options consortium. "Collaboration of all these entities, plus input from water industry employers, is key to effectively meeting the water needs of the region and beyond," said Bates.

Development of Water Technician Certificate
The 2013 development of MATC's new Water Technician Certificate is an example of that collaboration. With funding from the U.S. Department of Labor, representatives from MAWIB approached MATC with the request that the college create a certificate program for entry-level water industry employees. Working in tandem with the Water Council and receiving input from approximately 50 water industry representatives, a new 17-credit certificate was developed to provide core skills to new workers. The certificate also provides a career pathway for more training as all credits apply toward MATC's associate degree program.

As part of the H2Options grant, MATC instructors also are developing a number of new certificate offerings to meet the needs of the water industry. Projects in the works include a water chemistry certificate, an advanced water reclamation certificate and a freshwater/water reclamation management certificate. An interdisciplinary advanced technical process control certificate, with possible applications for electronic technology, environmental health and water quality, and food manufacturing students, also is in the pipeline. These certificates are still in the developmental stage, although several courses related to the certificates are already being offered at the college.

"Some of the instruments and processes have changed over the years,
but MATC's commitment to training people to ensure a clean water supply has never wavered."
- Jerry Ortiz, instructor,
MATC environmental health and water quality technology associate degree program

All MATC endeavors in these areas are undertaken with feedback from members of the program's advisory committee, which includes representatives from industry and government.

David Kliber, president and CEO of S-F Analytical Laboratories, Inc., of New Berlin, who is a member of the Water Council and MATC's advisory committee, attests to the quality and responsiveness of MATC's program to industry needs. "Water is becoming the 'new oil' of the world, but unlike oil, we all need water to survive and live," Kliber said. "We must manage scarcity, water quality and manage waste. MATC is educating people who can effectively serve those needs in Wisconsin, other states and other countries that have pressing water-related problems."

Calibrating Probe

Kevin Hensiak uses a monitoring probe.

Kathy Bates

MATC Instructor Kathy Bates

For more information on MATC's environmental health and water quality associate degree program, visit:

For more information on MATC's Water Technician Certificate, visit: