If drillers are to become truly professional, the time has come not only to embrace continuing education, but also to encourage it among our entire labor force, asserts South Atlantic Well Drillers executive director Jane Cain.

Not so long ago, continuing education was an optional activity in the water well industry. Early in it's history, the Jubilee offered educational courses. Shortly after it's inception as the National Water Well Association, the National Ground Water Association instituted a voluntary certification program with continuing education requirements. Individual states began offering a few classes at their annual meetings. Traditionally, manufacturers supplied training for their own products. The one thing these programs all had in common was that they were voluntary.

In recent years, however, many state governments have begun requiring continuing education credits in order to maintain a driller/contractor's license. All of the Jubilee states, except Virginia (which has a voluntary program through the association), soon will have state-mandated programs in place.

Each state has slightly different requirements. Some states allow classes in both technical and business techniques; some states allow drillers to carry hours over into the next year; some require a set number over a one year period; still others allow two years to achieve a certain goal. For drillers who operate in more than one state, just keeping track of the education requirements for licensing can become a real chore. For companies operating in states where every driller must fulfill a continuing education requirement, there can be record-keeping problems and added expense.

All that having been said, you may ask why drillers should welcome and support continuing education requirements. The answer is simple. We live in a society that prizes education. We work in an industry that is becoming more and more complex - technically, practically and politically. We need drillers who are educated experts. We need drillers who have broad knowledge, not just of well construction, but also of geology, hydrology, water resources and supply. We need drillers who know how to market their products and their companies in the most professional way possible.

We now are competing in an industry that attracts engineers, ground water scientists, soil scientists, and other degree- or certification-holding individuals. Clearly, it now is in the interest of our industry's economic health and our status as a key part of the water resource delivery system for drillers to be as educated as possible. And while some may not like being told they must submit to continuing education requirements, if drillers are to become truly professional, the time has come not only to embrace continuing education, but also to encourage it among our entire labor force -- including those individuals for whom there is no mandated requirement. Education enhances both the public's perception of drillers and our own image of ourselves as professionals.