The water sector is experiencing a critical scarce skills shortage, owing to an insufficient skills base and fierce competition in the labour market for skilled personnel, said the Department of Water Affairs (DWA) acting director- general Trevor Balzer.
During his address earlier this month at the Civilution Congress, in Ekurhuleni, he stated that a high retirement figure precipitated a huge loss in institutional memory, which included strategic and operational decision-making capabilities.
“An ongoing scarce skills shortage in the water sector is a threat to achieving water and sanitation delivery, meeting compliance targets and implementing sustainable water resources management, and the country needs the correct skills to manage water resources,” he noted.
Training and public water literacy required
Skills and capacity are critical to the implementation of the National Water Resource Strategy 2 and the energy and water sector education and training authority (Seta) focuses on determining skills development priorities.
Balzer said the key skills issues included the lack of coordinated mechanisms of planning and the delivery of quality assurance, the absence of a skills intelligence hub, the gap between higher education training, qualifications and professional registration, as well as inadequate human resource planning in the water sector.
Further, the level of water literacy and awareness among the public was low and this resulted in inefficient water use and wastage.
Water sector needs to maintain and invest in initiatives
A pipeline approach to create more skills is needed and this approach must start at a general education level and continue to the levels of further education and training (FET), higher education and the workplace.
Some of the sector initiatives undertaken to address the skills issue included the DWA learning academy; the FETWater programme; a framework programme for research education and training in the water sector in the Southern African Development Community; learnerships in local government, together with the local government Seta; and curriculum developments within the Department of Basic Education to support teacher development programmes.
Balzer believed that the current limited skills pool could be supplemented over time if initiatives could be maintained, embraced, contributed to and invested in by the water sector.