Upcoming Event: Opening Doors to Federal Government Contracting

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The U.S. Small Business Administration, in partnership with RCAP Solutions Financial Services, the Greater Gardner CDC & Twin Cities CDC is pleased to present:

Opening Doors to Federal Government Contracting

Wednesday, April 23, 2014
9:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.

RCAP Solutions Boardroom
205 School Street, Gardner

Looking for new markets for your small business’ goods or services?

Consider selling to the federal government by getting certified by the SBA.

Small business certifications are like professional certifications; they document a special capability or status that will help you compete in the marketplace. Unlike permits and licenses, you do not need to obtain certifications to legally operate. However, in order to take advantage of business opportunities, such as government contracts, you may need to obtain some certifications.

Learn about these certifications:

  • Small Disadvantaged Business
  • Women Owned Small Business
  • Veteran and Service Disabled
  • 8(a) Business Development Program
  • HUBZone Program

RSVP CONTACT:

Norman Eng: (617)565-8510, Norman.Eng@sba.gov

Ray Belanger: (978) 400-0169, rbelanger@twincitiescdc.org

All SBA programs and services are extended to the public on a nondiscriminatory basis.

The Greater Gardner and Twin Cities CDC Small Business Programs are funded in part by CDBG funds provided through the City of Fitchburg and through assistance provided by The Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation and the United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development

Potable Water Operator Training in Puerto Rico

PR trainingJosefa Torres, District Director

In November, RCAP Solutions provided the first of three Potable Water Operator trainings at Sila María Calderón Foundation in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

This training activity is part of the Puerto Rico Department of Health Technical Assistance Support & Circuit Rider Project, to help 48 small community-owned public water systems work towards becoming compliant with the EPA Safe Drinking Water Act.

23 participants, representing 17 communities attended the EPA-Certified Operator Training Certification classes, coordinated by RCAP Staff members Josefa Torres, District Director and Juan Campos, Community Development Specialist.

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Upon completion, these water systems will meet the U.S. national standards for safe drinking water, many for the first time in the history of these particular community public water systems.

Educational Tools to Sustain Our Rural Drinking Water and Wastewater Systems

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Sukhwindar Singh, Director of Education and Training, RCAP Solutions 

RCAP Solutions is a private nonprofit 501c 3 multi-state Regional Training and Technical Assistance Center that simultaneously serves as a Massachusetts based Economic Development Agency with a variety of housing, lending and client programs that all support self-sufficiency.  RCAP Solutions serves as the northeast member of the Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP) with headquarters in Worcester, Massachusetts and onsite drinking water and wastewater technical assistance specialists and trainers throughout the Northeast and Caribbean.  The RCAP National Headquarters are in Washington DC and the website is www.rcap.org.  All RCAP specialists utilize state and federal funding to work onsite with small rural drinking water and wastewater systems to effect four community outcomes:

a)      Improved environmental and community health

b)      Compliance with federal and state regulations

c)      Sustainable water and waste disposal facilities

d)      Increased capability of local leaders to address current and future needs.

For many years, RCAP personnel have documented the unique challenges small systems face in providing reliable drinking water and wastewater services that meet federal and state regulations.  These challenges include but are not limited to a lack of financial resources and customer base, aging infrastructure, management limitations, and high staff turnover.  At RCAP we offer technical assistance and training to system personnel and boards to raise awareness of technical, managerial, and financial issues and to improve the operations and compliance of these small systems.

The funding sources that RCAP utilizes to deliver training and technical assistance are highlighted here along with the types of technical assistance offered to communities.   These funding streams translate to the delivery of quality training and technical assistance programs unmatched by any other technical service provider to small and rural systems.  It is important to note that the RCAP technical assistance program is nationwide with technical assistance providers that work directly onsite with communities.  RCAP is also not a membership based association driven by dues, so programmatic efforts are very compatible with federal funding guidelines.  RCAP utilizes Health and Human services funding to improve water and wastewater facilities in small, low-income, rural communities.  With this funding, RCAP staff annually provide a variety of key training programs, serve on advisory councils and develop innovative programming in addition to serving roughly 600-750 communities with technical assistance.    For FY 2014 so far, RCAP Solutions staff have delivered long-term technical assistance to over 114 communities, delivered 130 technical assistance consultations to additional communities and we have conducted over 50 trainings to 289 community members.  Currently RCAP Solutions staff also participate in 16 task forces and program activities throughout our northeast region.  General examples of ways RCAP utilizes this funding includes the provision of workshops for small systems on asset management and budgeting, follow-up with state primacy and agency referrals, conferences and training development in the area of decentralized and onsite wastewater, rate reviews, and TMF (technical, managerial, and financial) training and assistance for small systems.  This year, RCAP Solutions staff are utilizing this funding to participate in the WARN (Water/Wastewater Agency Response Network)  meetings and activities in Pennsylvania and Maine, participate in the RCAP National Training Work Group and training activities, participate in the educational planning committee for the Massachusetts Drinking Water Day, and assist with the Ashokan Release Working Group (ARWG) Technical Subcommittee and NYS DEC Non-Point Source Pollution workgroup, as well as attendance at the New Jersey League of Municipalities Conference and participation at the Annual New Hampshire Drinking Water Training and Expo.

Since 1988, RCAP has worked with RUS (Rural Utilities Service) to provide assistance to communities of 3,300 or fewer residents that are eligible for RUS loans or grants- helping them both with the technical aspects of systems operations and with finding the financial resources necessary to operate their systems sustainably.  By putting these communities on the path to fiscal sustainability, RCAP reduces their reliance on future government grants and loans.  The RCAP network works closely with the Rural Development’s long-and short-term performance measures-particularly the goal of “ensuring the sustainability of water and wastewater systems in rural communities.”  For FY 2014, RCAP Solutions staff have provided long-term technical assistance to over 72 communities, conducted 3 board trainings (with more scheduled) and have trained over 63 staff and board members in small systems.  RCAP Solutions staff is also currently working on 5 Vulnerability Assessments and Emergency Response Plans with more scheduled.  This year it should also be noted that RCAP Solutions staff have assisted to develop capital projects and leverage over $8 million dollars of federal and state funds to benefit these rural communities.  Across our RCAP network, Rural Development is served by all of our regional RCAPs thus bringing the numbers of communities served with this funding source to well over 750 on an annual basis.

RCAP has also partnered successfully with the EPA in serving small water and wastewater systems for over 20 years and much of the technical assistance and training that is offered is customized for these very small drinking and wastewater systems to address compliance and local leadership issues. Some examples of our previous operator training deliverables and summer workshop series were highlighted in previous blogs by this author and are available here and here.

These training products and materials were made possible courtesy of our EPA/RCAP Training and Technical Assistance for Small POTW and Onsite/Decentralized Wastewater Systems and Private Well Owners to Improve Water Quality Project 2012-2013.  With this funding the RCAP Network provided over 30 on-site technical assistance projects, 20 face-to-face training sessions for system managers of small drinking water systems, 6 new training videos on wastewater collection and treatment impacts on watersheds, and over 80 half–day trainings for beginning and intermediate operators and 3 technical training webinars.  In addition, there were numerous and separate training and technical assistance activities for the private well and onsite/decentralized wastewater portions of the EPA grant as noted above.  When the grant closed, RCAP network staff had achieved 100% completion of all grant deliverables in a timely manner and feedback from the systems was overwhelmingly positive.

This year the RCAP activities will be focused on training and technical assistance activities supporting compliance of our small drinking water systems with the Safe Drinking Water Act and improving water quality through training and technical assistance to private well owners.  The outcome of this technical assistance for small and rural communities is improved compliance, improved public health, sustainable facilities and increased awareness by local leaders of future needs.

At RCAP Solutions we are making these connections every day for funders, politicians and local leaders when it comes to supporting the water and wastewater infrastructure needs of our small and rural systems. RCAP services promote economic self-sufficiency and system viability for the future.

An Introduction to Training Tools from RCAP Solutions

RCAP Solutions is pleased to offer our most recent webinar – “An Introduction to Training Tools from RCAP Solutions”, presented by Sukhwinder Singh, Director of Education and Training, RCAP Solutions  on October 15, 2013 at Spring Creek Watershed Association meeting in State College, Pennsylvania.

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The live training was presented to a group of board members and volunteers as well as staff of Clearwater Conservancy and State College Area Water Authority.

Topics covered include:  The RCAP National Network , Training Materials and an overview of RCAP Solutions.

To access the link, please click here.

Pictured to the left is Sukh Singh, RCAP Solutions’ Director of Education and Training, as she prepares to make her presentation.

Many students rushing to complete GED test

By Kimberly Hefling, Associated Press, November 07, 2013

WASHINGTON — Americans who passed part, but not all, of the GED test are rushing to finish the high school equivalency exam before a new version rolls out in January and their previous scores are wiped out. About 1 million people could be affected.

With the new version, test takers must use a computer instead of paper and pencil. The test itself will be more rigorous and cost more — at $120, the price in some states will be significantly higher than previous versions. Some places may subsidize all or part of the cost.

‘‘This is the thing that’s sort of putting the spur in the saddle,’’ said Lecester Johnson, executive director of Academy of Hope, an adult charter school in Washington. ‘‘People just don’t want to start over.’’

Test takers have been warned for more than a year about the approaching Dec. 31 deadline to complete the test. States and localities are phoning people, and thousands of letters have gone out — including to 32,000 Californians who passed parts but not all the test in the last two years.

‘‘We don’t want anyone to be caught off-guard and come in and test in January or February thinking they have their old scores, and they have to start over,’’ said Pam Blundell, who oversees adult education for the Oklahoma State Department of Education. She said Oklahoma sites have added additional test days and referred students to other sites.

Nicole Chestang, executive vice president at GED Testing Service, said the rush was expected. In 2001, the year before the last upgrade, there was a 30 percent increase in test takers, most toward the end of the year, she said.

She advised people to register for the exam now, even if they do not take it until later in November or December.

Some critics have challenged the price increases and the mandate that test takers use a computer — issues that affect many people living in poverty.

This is the first upgrade since for-profit Pearson Vue Testing acquired a joint ownership interest in the GED Testing Service. For 70 years, the service has been run by the nonprofit American Council on Education.

GED exam officials have said the changes will modernize the test and align it with new college and career-ready standards adopted in a majority of states. They say basic computer skills are needed in a modern workplace — even to apply for jobs at places such as retail stores and fast-food chains.

On a recent test given to adults worldwide of workplace skills including math, reading, and problem-solving using technology, American adults scored below the international average.

The test also will allow people to receive their scores the same day, rather than having to wait a month or more.

Frustrated with the changes, some states have opted instead to begin using other high school equivalency exams. One is Wyoming, which has adopted the use of two other tests.

Jim Rose, executive director of the Wyoming Community College Commission, said officials are exploring whether students who have passed sections of the GED can apply that toward passing one of the other high school equivalency exams.

‘‘Our centers are really committed to trying to make this something that is workable for students instead of a kind of high-stakes, winner-take-all game in which if you don’t complete by December, then you’ve got to begin again, and that’s going to create a hardship for students,’’ Rose said.

In Washington, D.C., Antoinette Mitchell, a deputy assistant superintendent of education, says she feels some urgency. ‘‘We are trying in numerous ways to get the word out to get them to come back,’’ she said.

In a low-income neighborhood on the new campus of the Carlos Rosario International Public Charter School in Washington, Principal Jorge Delgado said that instead of a last-minute rush, enrollment is declining as word spreads that the GED exam will soon be offered only by computer. The school, which has students from more than 20 countries speaking 40-plus languages, has added new computer literacy classes. Still, he said, many English language learners are intimidated by computers.

Delgado said many of the school’s students work in the hotel and restaurant industries and that passing the GED test will allow them to get a promotion to a supervisory position or enter a training program. Some are taking care of families and barely sleeping as they juggle responsibilities. He said he does not understand why the GED exam is not more flexible about allowing English language learners to take the test using a pencil and paper.

‘‘Why put more blocks in front of them? Why more obstacles when they are doing their best?’’ Delgado said. ‘‘What I’m seeing is students giving up already.’’

One student at the school who is not giving up is Natnael Gebremariam, 32, from Eritrea in East Africa. He goes to class in the mornings, works about 50 hours a week in the afternoons and evenings at a fast-food restaurant, then spends some nights doing homework past midnight.

The former teacher in his home country wants to work in information technology in the United States. He said the pressure he feels isn’t so much about the test changing, but wanting to pass the GED exam so he can take college classes.

‘‘All I know is I have to be ready by the end of this year,’’ Gebremariam said in an interview in between classes.

Community Resources at Work


Tioga County water protection coalition presentation
Top Photo:

RCAP Solutions presented to the Tioga County Source Water Protection Coalition on Wednesday, October 30th. The event was at full capacity with six publicly owned treatment works and municipalities present.

 

 

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Middle Photo:

RCAP Solutions presented today at the Central Pennsylvania Water Quality Association Training and Fair. PA State Lead Tom Essig, opened with an overview on RCAP Solutions, then introduced presenter David Cotton of Cotton Environmental.

 

 

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Bottom Photo:

David Cotton of Cotton Environmental presented “The What, Why and How of Wastewater Treatment Facilities” Facilitated by RCAP Solutions. This moderately technical presentation was created to benefit novice operators and non-technical personnel (elected officials, municipal/authority managers, and administrative personnel), addressing the relationship between stream water quality and wastewater treatment plant limits.

Click here for more about our Community Resources Education and Training Programs.

Quality Training to Revitalize Communities and Sustain Jobs in the Water Sector

Sukhwindar Singh, Director of Education and Training, RCAP Solutions

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RCAP Solutions is the northeast member of the Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP) with headquarters in Worcester, Massachusetts and onsite drinking water and wastewater technical assistance specialists and trainers throughout the Northeastern United States and Caribbean.  All RCAP specialists utilize state and federal funding to work onsite with small rural drinking water and wastewater systems to effect four community outcomes:

a)      Improved environmental and community health

b)      Compliance with federal and state regulations

c)      Sustainable water and waste disposal facilities

d)      Increased capability of local leaders to address current and future needs.

For years, RCAP personnel have documented the unique challenges that small systems face in providing reliable drinking water and wastewater services that meet federal and state standards.  These challenges can include but are not limited to a lack of financial resources and customer base, aging infrastructure, management limitations, and high staff turnover.  RCAP offers educational outreach to small systems to raise awareness of technical, managerial, and financial issues.  These RCAP tools, resources and methods assist system personnel and their boards to successfully operate and manage the system while addressing some of the barriers mentioned above.

Within the past year or so, RCAP has developed and released the following documents, materials and training programs that support economic and workforce initiatives:

  • An infographic on how Water Infrastructure Creates Jobs is available for free download here.
  • Color Brochures for recruiting new drinking water and wastewater operators to the water sector.  These brochures encourage those who are entering the workforce or those looking for a career change to consider a job in drinking water/wastewater operations.  These brochures highlight the benefits of jobs in the water sector, the education  and training experience needed and are suitable for distribution at high school and college career fairs, community colleges, technical schools and programs that help veterans find work.  These brochures are available at www.rcap.org/opcareers.
  • Wastewater Training Modules for Operators of Small Systems- intended primarily for training contact hours/CEUs or precertification training, there are 12-14 modules newly developed for entry level operators on a variety of topics including Wastewater Chemistry, Overview of the Clean Water Act (CWA) and the NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) Program, Energy Efficiency, Overview of Wastewater, Lagoons and Ponds, Preliminary and Primary Treatment, Wastewater Sampling and Preservation, Wastewater Disinfection, Introduction to Wastewater Plant Instrumentation and Monitoring, Wastewater Math for Operators, and a number of other topics.  Learning objectives, exercises, assessment and evaluation are core elements of these modules and characteristic of the RCAP approach. Seven of these modules were developed by RCAP Solutions and its qualified contractor Cotton Environmental.   All the training modules were developed around the most recent findings from the Association of Boards of Certification Need-to Know Critera for Wastewater Treatment Operators. In order to access our operator training materials, we encourage you to sign up for an RCAP Solutions training or contact us about setting up events near you.
  • Our first RCAP Solutions Summer Series Operator Training Tour was a success! Full day workshops were held in South Burlington, Vermont; Rutland, Vermont; Concord, New Hampshire and Worcester, Massachusetts.  The morning trainings consisted of the Clean Water Act & NPDES Program, Overview of Wastewater Treatment and Discharge Monitoring Reports.  The afternoon sessions consisted of the Intro to Chemistry and Wastewater Sampling and Preservation.  In addition, local officials and managers from surrounding municipalities were invited to a sponsored Lunch and Learn to learn more about wastewater characteristics and stream standards so that they are better informed to effectively manage their system.  In all, approximately 40 individuals attended the trainings with representatives from 14 communities with Publicly Owned Treatment Works (POTWS) and over 21 operators.  A review of pre and post-test scores for the attendees notes an overall improvement in understanding of basic concepts at the conclusion of the event and all attendees noted that the workshops met their expectations, and that class participation was encouraged and that the presenter(s) demonstrated knowledge of the topic and good presentation skills.  Many attendees noted that they would attend RCAP Solutions trainings again and found the material and video demonstrations quite useful.
  • RCAP has also released a new series of wastewater focused videos that highlight wastewater collection systems, small on-site wastewater treatment systems, energy efficiency, and preparing for emergencies for operators.  This compliments a series of videos already produced by RCAP  on wastewater processes for non-operators.  All these videos can be found here:  www.rcap.org/dwwwtreatment and www.rcap.org/newresources .

There are many additional materials and programs that have not been mentioned here.  Our goal was to highlight some newer materials that have recently been developed courtesy of our various funders.  All operator training workshops, modules, and videos were presented and funded as a part of the EPA/RCAP Training and Technical Assistance for Small, Publicly Owned WW Systems, Onsite/Decentralized Wastewater Systems and Private Well Owners to Improve Water Quality Project 2012-2013. Please contact Sukh Singh, Director of Education and Training for information about these materials at ssingh@rcapsolutions.org or 814.861.7072.

Our HCEC Counselors Receive New Certifications

HCEC in Training

Congratulations to the members of our Housing Consumer Education Center Team on their recent certifications!

Pictured is Robert Ochoa, Housing Counselor Specialist; Madeline Cotto, HCEC Coordinator and Pam Moshier, Chief Consumer Education Officer and Director of HCEC at the NeighborWorks Training Institute in Philadelphia PA.

Robert and Maddie are now certified in Homebuyer Educaton Methods as Trainers and Pam received Certification in Homeownership Counseling for Program Managers and Executive Directors.

For more information on our Housing Consumer Education Center, please visit our HCEC Page on our website.

About NeighborWorks Center for Homeownership Education and Counseling:  NCHEC promotes sustainable homeownership by supporting the industry’s educators and counselors. Through its training programs, professional certifications and other tools and resources, NCHEC increases the number of qualified homeownership professionals who are prepared to help people realize the dream of lifelong homeownership.  Visit their website for more information.

Wastewater Operator Training A Success!

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The RCAP Solutions Operator Training Summer Tour of 2013 was a great success!

Workshops were held in Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

These newly developed programs – geared for new and intermediate level wastewater operators – offered up to 8 hours of approved contact time at no cost to the town.

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Topics included: Clean Water Act & NPDES Program, Overview of Wastewater Treatment, Discharge Monitoring Reports, Intro to Chemistry and Sampling and Preservation.

The courses were well received by all participants and attendees indicated they would be interested in additional training.

Over the 4 days of training, approximately 40 individuals attended the training with representatives from 14 communities with Publicly owned treatment works.

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Pictured:

Top – Karen A. Koller, RCAP President & CEO welcomes the group  and provides an overview of RCAP Solutions Programs and services.

Middle – David Cotton, Consultant with Cotton Enviromental, LLC presents to a packed room at RCAP Solutions Worcester Training Room.

Bottom – Sukhwindar Singh, RCAP Solutions Director of Education and Training presents the chemistry training module.

Sponsorship opportunities are available for all workshops and include high visibility with speaking and promotional opportunities at workshops, logo on all publicity, etc.  For more information on our training programs, please contact Sukhwindar Singh, Director of Education and Training, Phone: 412-554-2572 / Email: ssingh@rcapsolutions.org.