NASIRIYAH - Construction of a new multi-million dollar water treatment plant here means fresh water for more than 500,000 residents. It also means a variety of new jobs, ranging from laborers to skilled engineers.

The plant serves the Dhi Qar communities of Nasiriyah, Suq Ash Sheuk, al-Diwaya, al-Shatra and al-Gharraf., and is a "world-class facility and the largest water treatment facility in Iraq," according to Lt. Col. Dale Johnson, Adder area engineer.

"The project contractor, Fluor-AMEC, worked for 26 months without an onsite accident - that is 4.5 million man hours without a recordable lost work-day accident," he said. "Now we are looking for people to fill the technical employment positions."

The Ministries of Municipalities and Public Works owns the water treatment facility and is recruiting for employment at the plant. Fluor-AMEC, according to the terms of its contract, must provide three months of training for operators and plant staff on all levels, said Ken Dorr, GRD Project Contracting Office water sector program manager.

"Training for the position is a 30-day block and people interested in employment must attend all 30 days to be eligible for employment," he said. "The positions are for plant operators, the plant manager, maintenance crew, software technicians and laborers."

Fluor-AMEC has successfully held the training in other parts of Iraq, said Dorr, because of support from the local government.

"This training is classroom and hands-on," he said. "We have a three-month operations and maintenance period so that when we are done and the commissioning is complete, we have Fluor technicians working there doing on-the-job training with the local work force."

Dorr emphasized the importance of local government support and added that doggedness and diligence is the answer to staffing the plant adequately with the properly trained individuals.

"The folks I have encountered are high quality people who care," he said, "from both sides. We need to have more teamwork because on the projects where it does exist, we have a wonderful success rate. If we work on something together, people will be more motivated because they have invested time into the project."

Johnson added classes at the plant are a "perfect opportunity for Iraqis who have a technical background - in biology or engineering for example - or someone who has a degree to go out, learn a skill and function as a professional."

James R. Long, project engineer for the water treatment plant, said he met with the local MMPW representative in Baghdad to resolve class attendance issues.

"The (representative) assured me that his ministry is working on these issues," he said. "Part of the problem has been transportation because of the distance some trainees have to travel. The problem has been solved now and he came out to speak to one of the training classes. He encouraged all trainees to continue attending and awarded each a monetary stipend for their efforts thus far. This underscores the ministry's support of our program."

An Iraqi engineer working for GRS noted that working at the facility offers inexperienced engineers an excellent place to begin their careers, and that these kinds of positions are important because they offer skill development.

"We have to make the young engineers understand that this is a good first step for them," he said.

"The engineering students from the school in Nasiriyah often do internships in the summer, fixing pumps or working on oil generators. But this is an opportunity for a permanent job. And they receive a stipend to attend the training - this only encourages the beginning engineers."

He underscored the need for training, not only in the engineering profession, but also for Iraq's businessmen and potential project managers.

"The most effective thing we can have here in Iraq is training," he said. "The problem right now is that no one is taking his role in our society. We are looking for people who care. This is what will make a difference for our country."