Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Dr. John All (Director), Dr. Andrew N.S. Ernest, Dr. Margaret Gripshover, Dr. Elizabeth Shoenfelt

Degree Program

Department of Geography and Geology

Degree Type

Master of Science


Drinking water and wastewater industries are facing a nationwide workforce shortfall of qualified treatment plant operators due to factors including the en masse retirement of baby boomers and the tightening of regulatory requirements regarding the hands-on experience required prior to licensure. Rural areas are hardest hit due to the lack of educational and experiential opportunities available to them within a reasonable proximity. Using a variety of demographic and industry data, a geographic analysis of Kentucky was conducted to assess the viability of the traditional classroom delivery model versus a hybrid experiential and distance learning educational model (HEDLEM). Although this analysis indicates that population density is the dominant indicator for most of the parameters used in this study, the bulk of the workforce needs in the state are distributed throughout rural areas with lower population densities. While the number and geographic distribution of community colleges in the state would appear to support the viability of campus-based workforce development programs, this study demonstrates the limitations of this model in addressing the needs of the water and wastewater workforce, where a significant workplace-associated experiential requirement exists. This limitation is exaggerated in rural areas, which have a demonstrated statewide need. This study indicates that a sufficient recruitment pool exists for the program based on the anticipated


Hydrology | Water Resource Management