Fifty engineers from the Los Angeles County Sanitation District (LACSD) received a customized valve education during a special program hosted at the LACSD facility in Whittier, CA, Feb. 26-27. The event was offered by the Valve Manufacturers Association’s Valve Education team as part of its new custom training program.
Both attendees and instructors deemed the two-day event a success. As has happened at past VMA programs, participants gave high marks to the “valve petting zoo,” a unique hands-on learning experience that provides additional time for attendees to see and examine the products.
Shannon Bishop, a project engineer in the LACSD Reuse & Compliance Section, praised the content of the course. She will be transferring to one of the utility’s design sections within the next couple weeks and found the course particularly helpful because it not only gave the basics regarding each valve type, but also the various design conditions in which each may be used.
Bishop also thought the course handout was put together very well: “The manual will be something I can reference for many years to come. The instructors were also great. They were all very knowledgeable, and it was apparent how much each was genuinely passionate about valves, which, as an engineer, I can appreciate.”
Lessons were adapted from select sessions in VMA’s Valves, Actuators & Controls 101 course, with emphasis on issues of most importance to the water and wastewater community. (See box: The LACSD’s Custom Course.)
“This event was very helpful for our new engineers and even the more experienced engineers in our group learned things that they didn’t know before,” said Steven Hernandez, senior engineer of Wastewater & Solid Waste Design at LACSD. “The petting zoo was a great session to get an up-close view of the various valves and their operation. Overall, the event was great. In the long term, I could see us holding a similar event. However, in the interim, we may have staff that are interested attend one of your other events on an individual basis.”
Derek Zondervan is supervising engineer of Wastewater and Solid Waste Design at LACSD; he was part of the team responsible for bringing the education program to the California facility. He too was enthusiastic about the seminar. “A lot of the technical training opportunities out there are general and cover a broad range of topics and industries. I especially liked VMA’s seminar because it provided in-depth training that was customized to cover topics relevant to our organization (wastewater collection/treatment). Also, VMA brought industry experts from all over the country and each presented information from their respective areas of expertise. That kind of training is hard to find!”
He added: “A highlight for a lot of the attendees was the petting zoo portion of the event, where we got the opportunity to play with the various valves, actuators, and controls discussed during the presentations.” Zondervan noted that because the zoo took place during the afternoon of the second day, “it really helped to reinforce the topics discussed during the presentations. Usually we engineers are told ‘Hey, don’t touch that!’ when we venture out to the field, so it was fun and informative to explore these valve items up close and personal.”
Zondervan mentioned another benefit of having the training in-house. “We invited staff from Wastewater Design, Field Engineering, Operations, Electrical Design and Sewer Design to attend. Having staff from all different areas of our organization was really beneficial and will help us get on the same page when we consider how to specify, install and operate valves at our various facilities.” He noted that the cost for the seminar was very reasonable and a great value.
According to presenter Greg Johnson of United Valve and former chairman of VMA’s Education & Training Committee, it was a terrific experience for the presenters as well. Johnson mused that perhaps the reason attendees were so animated and involved in presentations and the petting zoo was because they were attending by choice, and not being told to attend by a boss or supervisor. He noted the attendees asked very good questions and all seemed to appreciate the presenters being there to teach about valves. “The wastewater industry has special valve requirements. Our experienced team of presenters was able to tailor a course specific to their needs,” he said.
MORE ABOUT CUSTOM EDUCATION
This is the second custom training event conducted by VMA’s Valve Ed team. A previous event was held near an ExxonMobil refinery in Baton Rouge, LA, and also received plaudits from the company’s lead valve specialist, as well as from the 38 engineers who participated. In addition, a VMA valve manufacturer has just booked a custom program for June and several other large valve user facilities have expressed an interest.
AUMA’s Paul Souza, a Valve Ed instructor and chairman of the VMA Education & Training Committee, explains why VMA's program is being so well received: “We are really seeing a lot of interest, and that's because of the huge need for basic valve and actuator training in the industry. Let’s face it, there are so many new engineers who would benefit from this type of course. But the cost of sending a large group of engineers and other employees to our regular 101 course near Houston can be prohibitive for many companies. This is exactly why we decided to offer custom training.”
VMA’s next regular education program is the three-day Valves, Actuators & Controls 101 program at the Houston Area Safety Council in Pasadena, TX, Oct. 30-Nov. 1, 2018. It features numerous hands-on learning opportunities, as well as tabletop exhibits. Registration opens in July 2018.