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A man works machinery in groundwater rig training program.

OSU, National Groundwater Association collaborate to create training program

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

A collaboration between Oklahoma State University and the National Groundwater Association aims to address a projected shortfall of geoscience workers and improve access to groundwater that is essential for people around the world. 

Capturing groundwater is not possible without the proper workforce of water-well drilling contractors and pump installers who access and deliver groundwater for the use of drinking water, irrigation and other industries.

NGWA and OSU are creating a series of groundwater training courses delivered online with future development of classroom and field courses. The program will offer career development opportunities for industry professionals, university students and entry-level workers, and can prepare them for rigorous certification exams or could lead to university degrees. These courses will improve the safety and skills of drilling industry members and systematically address the critical shortage of professionals in the industry.

“As a land-grant institution, Oklahoma State’s mission is to address issues facing our state, nation and world,” said OSU President Burns Hargis. “As one of the few universities with a long history in groundwater education, we know that 98.5 percent of the drinking water available to people is in the ground. We also know that the infrastructure supporting groundwater needs to modernize, and we are proud to do our part to address the issue.”

National Groundwater Association CEO Terry S. Morse, CAE, CIC, said a significant number of knowledgeable and experienced geoscientists are aging into retirement.

“Even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the field was projected to face a shortfall of 135,000 workers by 2022,” Morse added. “We need to train the next group of people who will manage groundwater and operate these rigs. That is obviously a serious problem not just for the industry, but for everyone considering that access to clean water increases life expectancy by 20-plus years. So NGWA was compelled to address this problem, and OSU will help us meet this challenge.”

Dr. Todd Halihan, a professor in OSU’s Boone Pickens School of Geology, agreed, noting that 44 percent of Americans rely on water from wells provided by the groundwater industry.

“Groundwater is the most stable water resource and doesn’t suffer from evaporation like surface reservoirs. People don’t realize how much groundwater research and infrastructure is here in Oklahoma from federal and university researchers, and industrial partners in drilling and consulting,” Halihan said. “It just makes sense to establish this collaboration between OSU and NGWA, a win-win for both their association and our university, and it will benefit countless individuals who rely on groundwater. 

The first course in the new program is Drilling Basics Online, a series of five, eight-hour sessions developed through the collaboration of industry professionals, scientists, engineers and experts in online education. The course covers the skills and competencies tested for on groundwater drilling exams.

Up to 5,000 people are expected to participate in this course in just the first two years, and it has unlimited capacity to accommodate high volumes of participants at any given time. Because it is self-paced and delivered entirely online, it is ideal for the non-drilling days of workforce employees as well as for those working at home and the currently unemployed.

OSU and NGWA are excited the initial funding for the program is in place and has been provided by private donors and industry sponsors.

NGWA and OSU have the established infrastructure for this program and have gained interested collaborators both nationally and internationally. Additional land-grant universities may deliver course content in the field, and the program may even expand internationally based on demand.

MEDIA CONTACT: Jacob Longan | Coordinator of Communications and Marketing, OSU College of Arts and Sciences | 405-744-7497 | 

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