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Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads – Steve O’Neil – Environmental Biologist/Wastewater Operator

Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads logoSince students cannot be engaging in face-to-face or on-site work-based learning experiences, we’re bringing people from a wide range of occupations to students remotely. These videos will allow students to learn about their work, the skills that are most important in their work, and to benefit from the advice that these professionals have to offer students.


In this Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads episode, we interview Steve O’Neill, who is a Wastewater Operator for the City of St. Charles (St. Charles, Illinois). Steve speaks about his educational background, including the importance of one of his high school teachers at St. Charles East High School and earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Biology from Eastern Illinois University. Steve highlights the range of activities he encounters and completes each week in his work, ranging from biology in a lab setting to working with industrial machinery in the field, and he explains how he feels his work improves the world by maintaining human and environmental health within the community locally and by contributing to clean water globally.

Like many of the Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads guests, Steve’s work spans across a number of Career Pathways. In large part, his work is rooted in the Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources Career Pathway, but given the role of large, industrial machinery in Steve’s work, there are also significant elements of the Manufacturing, Engineering, Technology, and Trades Career Pathway. Finally, as is clear in Steve’s interview, his focus on being a public servant as a government worker also provides strong evidence of his job being part of the Human & Public Services Career Pathway.

In this episode, Steve spoke about how diverse his work is within a day and from one day to the next, and he also spoke about first being aware of the possibility of working for local government as a result of a summer job he held as a teenager. From that, he built and maintained relationships that then led to a long-term position and a career. Even in a job that requires dealing with raw sewage, Steve reminds students to “never shy away from an opportunity to learn something new.”

Watch this Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads episode with environmental biologist Steve O’Neil.

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