Survey 2021 – We asked, you responded, we have been listening…

We asked, you responded, we have been listening…

  • By Kalpna Solanki, CPHI(C) BSc MBA

The EOCP completed a survey of its membership in 2016, and the response was tremendous, with more than 450 responses.  More recently, another survey was conducted to do a ‘pulse check’ as it were, with an equally high number of responses.

Comparing the results from 2016 and 2021:

Question

Very Satisfied or Satisfied Neutral Dissatisfied or Very Dissatisfied
  2016 2021 2016 2021 2016 2021
How satisfied are you with how the EOCP represents your professional interests? 68% 75% 25% 20% 7% 5%
How satisfied are you with the responsiveness of the EOCP? 71% 79% 23% 17% 6% 4%
How satisfied are you with the quality of the services of the EOCP? 71% 79% 21% 16% 8% 5%
Overall, how satisfied are you with the EOCP? 71% 77% 27% 17% 2% 6%

Whilst most of the survey comprised of close-ended questions, there were some open-ended questions as well.  Some questions and responses are noted below:

  1. ON EXAMS
    • Allow access to incorrect exam questions to help understand weak areas and avoid the same mistakes again.
      • The majority of the exams used by the EOCP are under license from the Association of Boards of Certification (ABC). There are strict rules regarding these exams to ensure exam integrity.  The EOCP does not have the ability to determine which answers are incorrect, nor does it have the permission or ability to share exam questions details with examinees.  However, each examinee is provided with an individual scores outline:
    • Remove the 10 extra questions from exams.
      • We are here again limited by the rules from ABC related to the 10 extra questions. The downside is that Operators have to answer 10 extra questions that are interspersed throughout the exam (we do not know which questions comprise the extra 10).  The upside is that those 10 extra questions will be evaluated for future exams, thus making future exams even better.
    • More exam location options.
      • There are currently only three jurisdictions in Canada continuing to provide exam services. In most areas of Canada, there are currently no exams being offered.  The EOCP strives to provide exams in as many locations as possible, and as frequently as demand warrants.  In areas where the usual colleges/universities are closed, the EOCP team has been travelling to and invigilating exams in person.  In 2020, the EOCP provided 279 exam sessions – that is more exam sessions than any other jurisdiction in Canada.
    • Consideration of Operators who may have a disability affecting their ability to write exams.
      • The EOCP has implemented several accommodations for Operators which can be reviewed at https://tinyurl.com/7xu7db
      • In addition, the EOCP has all of its own exams (SWS, SWWS, BWD, BWS, and OIT) available in audio formats.
      • The EOCP continues working with the ABC to develop options for alternate methods of delivery for the ABC exams and as of the 15th of May, the ABC exams will be available to Operators in audio format as well via an eReader tool. However, due to equipment limitations at some facilities, these accommodations are only available at the EOCP office and when booked in advance.
    • More study materials.
  1. COURSES AND CEUS
    • Hands-on training courses, more courses, and training courses outside the Lower Mainland.
      • The EOCP is a named in legislation as an organization that classifies facilities and certifies Operators. The EOCP does not provide training.  Even at its annual conference, the EOCP facilitates a gathering of training providers rather than provision of training by EOCP staff.
    • More conferences, and conference events outside the Lower Mainland.
      • The first EOCP conference was held in 2018. The format of the conference and its location was determined based on the feedback from a survey of Operators in 2017.  The EOCP puts on the annual conference without hiring extra staff, and additional events are not feasible at the moment.
    • Edit the SWS and SWWS courses.
      • The EOCP provides Need To Know (NTK) criteria, however courses are not provided by the EOCP. Training providers use the NTK criteria to develop course material.
    • Streamline courses across the province.
      • Training providers submit for review courses to the EOCP and the EOCP’s Subject Matter Experts review the courses. All training providers have been advised to use the most up to date NTK criteria when developing courses.
    • Get more Operators involved in EOCP training.
      • The EOCP does not provide training. However, there are several Operators either running their own training companies or working for training providers.
    • Increased repercussions for those not completing CEUs
      • As of 2017, Operators need to have valid membership with the EOCP and need to have completed the necessary CEUs to remain certified. The EOCP has been working with the relevant ministries to increase the level of compliance.
    • Ability to ‘carry over’ CEUs to the next reporting period
      • The restriction related to carry-over CEUs is in adherence with the best practices of the Canadian Water and Wastewater Operator Certification Committee. All Canadian jurisdictions have agreed to adhere to this restriction.
    • Relax CEU rules during the pandemic.
      • This was discussed extensively at an EOCP board meeting. Considering that there are numerous conferences and other training opportunities available online, and in some cases, in person with safety protocols in place, the decision was made to not relax the CEU rules.  The current reporting period started on 1 January 2020 and ends on 31 December 2021.  Many Operator have already completed their required CEUs, others who still need CEUs can do so over the next 8 months via the aforementioned options.
      • A review of the number of online courses available shows that the offerings have increased significantly since last year due to more training providers pivoting to this method of training.
    • Stop the CEU requirements.
      • The water and wastewater industry is constantly undergoing change necessitating that Operators stay up to date with these changes. Similarly, the need for ongoing professional development is a requirement of maintaining certification for many professions, and this requirement for CEUs is a fundamental tenet of the best practices of the Canadian Water and Wastewater Operator Certification Committee.  All Canadian jurisdictions have agreed to adhere to the requirement for CEUs.
      • If the EOCP abandoned the CEU requirements, reciprocity would be impacted severely.
  1. THE CUSTOMER RELATIONSHIP MANAGER (CRM)
    • More user-friendly Customer Relationship Manager.
      • The EOCP’s Customer Relationship Manager (CRM) is considered best of class in North America, and every change undergoes User Acceptance Testing (UAT). However, I recognize that such systems, despite the extensive UAT, may not be intuitive for everyone.  The EOCP has several recorded webinars available for users, including this one called ‘CRM Basics’: https://tinyurl.com/4p6v5mdu.  In addition, the EOCP staff team is happy to work with you to navigate the CRM.
    • Customer Relationship Manager (CRM) access via mobile device.
      • We have heard you loud and clear on this one, and work is currently underway to provide CRM functionality via cell phone or tablet for the most often used aspects of the CRM. This work will be completed within the next few weeks.
  1. OTHER QUESTIONS
    • Use a better call centre.
      • The EOCP does not use a call centre and calls are handled by EOCP staff. During the pandemic, with more calls coming in, the phone lines were routinely tied up.  To alleviate this problem, additional lines have been added.
    • Better reciprocity with other provinces.
      • The EOCP already has a reciprocity agreement in place with provinces via the Canadian Water and Wastewater Operator Certification Committee, of which I am currently Chair. Formed in 1979, this committee has 19 best practices in place which oversee aspects of facility classification and Operator certification that make reciprocity between the provinces and territories as seamless as possible:
    • Create a mentor/mentee program.
      • The EOCP has a Operator Peer Network with more than 100 matches already made. If you are interested in being a mentor or mentee, please reach out to me at ksolanki@eocp.ca
    • Encourage employers to ensure Operators are professional and ethical.
      • The EOCP has developed a Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice for Environmental Operators. Any Operator applying for an exam needs to confirm they have reviewed and will abide by the Code.  By Q3 2021, every Operators accessing the CRM will need to review and agree to the Code.
    • More enforcement of facilities where Operators are no longer certified.
      • The EOCP works closely with the regulators in BC and YK to ensure facilities are staffed by certified Operators. This process, started in 2017, has significantly increased compliance with the applicable regulations.
      • The EOCP is also working closely with the BC Government on the recommendations put forward in the BC Provincial Health Officer’s Drinking Water Report as well as the Auditor General’s Report on Drinking Water.
    • Make DRC plans mandatory.
      • Once the EOCP’s new facility classification models were implemented within the CRM, the next step has been to chase down DRC plans. Work continues on this front and we expect to have a lot more facilities with DRC plans in place by the end of 2022.
    • Better classification systems for small systems based on complexity.
      • The EOCP has been working on new small system classification models, and anticipates they will be available for online completion by early 2022.
    • I have 40 Operators working for me and the EOCP has never asked me what it can do to help.
      • The survey completed in 2016 provided us with a great deal of feedback on what was important to Operators – at all levels. As per the title of this article ‘We asked, you responded…we have been listening’, and we have.  Over the past five years, we have delivered on the following:
  1. An Operator conference – we had our very first conference in 2018 with almost 300 delegates, and our 2020 conference had more than 400 delegates. Our next conference will be on the 14th and 15th of September.
  2. More exam sessions – we routinely have more than 200 exam sessions per year, and in 2020, despite a pandemic, we had 279 exam sessions (that’s more exam sessions than any other jurisdiction in North America).
  3. A quarterly newsletter – we have been publishing the Operator Digest on a quarterly basis with a focus on new technology, Operator profiles, and industry updates.
  4. A new, more user-friendly database – through 2016 and 2017 we worked on our Customer Relationship Manager.  The CRM has been the most ambitious project ever undertaken by the EOCP, and we have been able to launch a CRM that is considered to be the ‘best in class’ in the industry.
  5. A new website – soon after deployment of the CRM, the EOCP website also underwent a massive overhaul that includes the ability to log in to the CRM directly from the website.
    • However, if you feel you have not been heard, please do reach out to us. Board Directors can be contacted via the office at eocp@eocp.ca, and I can be contacted via ksolanki@eocp.ca.

Overall, the feedback, despite the impact of the pandemic, shows that more of you are very satisfied or satisfied with the work the EOCP does on your behalf.  Thank-you to everyone who participated in the survey – your feedback is valuable and will help the EOCP better meet the needs of its stakeholders.

To wrap things up, occasionally, we get feedback like this which really makes our day:

“I kinda fell into wastewater and water work in ’92, first certified in ’94, and I wanted to thank you for all the times you personally, and the others there too, have helped me over the years.

I’m retiring next year, so the CEUs you just handled for me will likely be my last.

The voices on the phone at EOCP have been comforting and helpful over the last two-three decades when I was stressed about having enough CEUs – especially when worrying someone more qualified might be hired over me as our systems got more complicated.

The responsibilities of my wastewater and water work since 1992 can at times feel daunting – but there’s something about the way the staff at the EOCP office turn our courses and experience into a concrete confidence that we are on track in our service – that I have appreciated so very much over all these years.”

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