Operator please with industry operations at WIOA

The Water Industry Operations Association of Australia (WIOA) is the peak body for operations within the water industry. Have you met them?

The Water Industry Operations Association of Australia (WIOA) is the peak body for operations within the water industry. Dean Barnett is its Chief Executive Officer and is leading the charge.

“WIOA’s bandwidth is the operations sector within the water industry on a national basis,” said Dean Barnett. “It includes field operators, who are the front line for the industry. This encompasses the network operators, treatment plant operators, general manager of operations, and everybody in between, including the external support such as suppliers and consultants.”

Barnett is the CEO of the Water Industry Operations Association of Australia (WIOA). He pointed out that WIOA values the water industry consultants and suppliers who support the industry and share their experience and the latest innovative technology to form part of the WIOA community. He encourages anyone who engages with the operation sector to become a member.

Changes within WIOA

WIOA has undergone a subtle change in the past few months. Previously, it was the Water Industry Operators Association, but now it’s about operations.

“It’s a significant change for us in the sense that we were heavily focused on field operations,” Barnett said. “I guess the transition to operations has allowed us to increase our bandwidth. We don’t want to lose focus on the operators, as they are the frontline employees delivering vital services to their communities. This change has allowed us to go to the General Manager of Operations and have more strategic discussions.”

WIOA is increasing its capacity to take on relevant members by recruiting a comprehensive selection of people within operations centres. This includes data scientists and laboratory technicians, among others.

It’s not the only change that has taken place at WIOA. Barnett has been with the organisation for just over a year and has been in charge as CEO for six months. In that time, he has relished the expanded membership engagement and its outcomes.

“We’ve been working hard within the board on a strategic plan,” said Barnett. “We conducted a member survey to better understand their vision of WIOA. In doing that, we discovered some consistent themes. That will help us deliver the 2024-25 strategic plan for WIOA.”

As part of this engagement, he has enjoyed the increased feedback from members at WIOA events. A number of members, delegates, exhibitors, and sponsors have said they would appreciate the opportunity to modernise our events.

“I feel that the Association is a bit more engaged,” he said. “We’re getting a lot of feedback and becoming more active, and that’s helping us steer the direction of the next evolution of WIOA.”

IDIOTS are big winners

While many people would object to being called an idiot, that’s not necessarily the case for WIOA members. The IDIOTS (Inducted as Delegates of the Inextricably Obstructed Tap Society) award was introduced to recognise individuals’ services to the Association. The award is designed to complement Life Membership, the Association’s most prestigious honour. It is presented to an individual in recognition of their commitment to the vision and philosophies of the Association and the active promotion of WIOA through distinguished service to the Association.

“It’s all about recognition and alignment to the goals of WIOA,” Barnett said. “We’re fortunate to have a lot of individuals who have shown their long-term passion for WIOA and continue to contribute to the delivery of our vision and mission. We like to recognise them in the lightest of ways. It sounds a bit quirky, but it’s highly prestigious within WIOA. I guess it’s a show of gratitude to those who have contributed so much.”

Events calendar expanding

WIOA is noted for having annual conferences and exhibitions in Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland. After several years of successful events, Barnett believes this is an opportunity to refresh its events calendar.

“When I look at the conferences, I have to acknowledge the number of people involved,” Barnett said. “We all come together at these events that represent a networking opportunity, a prospect to learn about new technology and share learning. Ideally, we can do that on a grander scale as time progresses.”

It’s not just the big events. Barnett looks forward to the smaller events because they are more intimate and provide more opportunities for longer discussions.

“We are very excited to be holding our first event in Western Australia for the first time in a long time,” he said. “As such, we are planning for an interest day in Western Australia. We are also looking into the Northern Territory to see how we can support them.”

What’s coming for WIOA

In the coming years, Barnett wants to increase the level of engagement with its membership base.

“WIOA is getting bigger than any one individual,” he said. “However, I’m looking at it more from a process point of view. If we are increasing our engagement, it means that there are more avenues for feedback. That feedback from the wider WIOA community will help us steer the next evolution of WIOA. That will help keep us relevant and current about the issues and the support the operation sector will need nationwide.”

For more information, visit https://wioa.org.au/

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