Estremera: Paving the way for a more inclusive future
The Santa Clara Valley Water District is located at 5750 Almaden Expressway in San Jose. Photo by Lorraine Gabbert.

In the heart of Santa Clara County, where innovation thrives, Santa Clara Valley Water District is taking a bold step towards a more equitable and inclusive future. Our commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion is brought forward through our infrastructure projects, grant and partnership programs and hiring practices. Now, with the new Valley Water Next Gen Career Pathways Program, we can build upon our progress by helping students and recent graduates get their foot in the door.

I’ve served as a Valley Water board member for the last 27 years. It’s thrilling to see the growth and efforts we’ve made to diversify our workforce over this time. Through our new Next Gen Career Pathways Program, we now have the chance to open the world of water to a new generation.

The Next Gen Program is about more than just creating opportunities; it’s about nurturing skills, providing mentorship and offering hands-on experience in specific fields. The program is our way of ensuring the door to the water industry is open to all, regardless of background or circumstances. The Next Gen Program helps us develop career pathways for disadvantaged local communities and do more to recruit diverse candidates from across the nation.

We implemented the Next Gen Career Pathways Program in February 2023 with the launch of three initiatives, each playing a unique role in reshaping our future workforce. Our mission to supply safe, clean water to the residents and businesses of Santa Clara County relies on this future and we must secure it now.

The initiatives include the Wonders of Water, Discover Valley Water Internship Program and Water Educator Training Program.

Through a pilot program with Cristo Rey High School in San Jose, Valley Water is working to reach high school students through organizations in Santa Clara County dedicated to preparing students with the essential skills they need to find, acquire, maintain and grow within a job. This is a great example of the Wonders of Water initiative.

My fellow board members and I are proud of our award-winning internship program, and we’re excited to expand the program by adding 10 new slots designated for students from disadvantaged communities. The Discover Valley Water Internship Program partners with colleges and universities supporting underprivileged students, ensuring equal access to opportunities within the water industry.

Having a strong education provided by inspiring teachers is fundamental to future success. The Water Educator program will provide training that will strengthen partnerships with schools, colleges and non-profits to promote water industry education and job opportunities among students.

Additionally, in collaboration with the Santa Clara County Office of Education and individual School Districts, Valley Water is developing classes and programs for high school students. By creating awareness about careers in Valley Water from K-8, we are laying the groundwork for a more inclusive and equitable future.

Investing in the Next Gen Career Pathways Program is important to our community because this allows Valley Water to take concrete steps to promote workforce development and create a pipeline of skilled professionals who can ensure the long-term sustainability of the water industry. This program actively engages with diverse communities, attracting underrepresented groups and fostering fairness in hiring outcomes.

In the spirit of equity, diversity and inclusion, Valley Water’s Next Gen Career Pathways Program isn’t just a program, it’s a promise to help break down barriers to ensure everyone in our community has equal opportunity. I’m excited to be a part of an organization that is building a workforce that is more inclusive to help drive our region’s progress for generations to come.

Tony Estremera is on the Board Directors at the Santa Clara Valley Water District.

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