Researching ideas into reality

The Stellenbosch University Water Institute (SUWI) is one entity whose work has been boosted by EWSETA, and the partnership is bearing short-course fruit. EWSETA and SUWI have developed a programme in water treatment process management that is creating positive waves among technical vocational education and training (TVET) educators.

The course, one of a suite of programmes to upskill lecturers of students involved in water-treatment studies, was piloted in Limpopo in the second half of last year, before being offered at Drakenstein Municipality, Western Cape.

Following Drakenstein’s success, the initiative was rolled out to Nkangala TVET College in Witbank, Mpumalanga, at the end of March 2018. A combination of classroom-based training and a visit to a wastewater treatment plant, the programme’s intended outcome is to provide a high-level overview of the core principles and management concepts of water- and wastewater treatment.

Without research, the course would not have materialised – research funded by EWSETA, which allowed SUWI to conduct an educational needs analysis of TVET college lecturers in the water sector.

The study set out to identify skills gaps by determining the status of intermediate level qualifications in the sector, the educational needs of lecturers and the skill requirements of the industry. The work tied in with the government priority to invest in the betterment of TVET colleges by, among other initiatives, capacitating lecturers.

Among the key findings during the exercise was the widespread mismatch between the skills ranked as important in graduates, as detailed in Workplace Skills Plans, and the emphasis placed on these skills by TVET college lecturers in the classroom.

The lack of practical experience and/or qualifications of lecturers was also noted. SUWI’s Manuel Jackson says a wide range of people will benefit from the course. ‘It is designed in such a way as to enable tutors, trainers, engineers and officials from the three tiers of government to select and apply water- and wastewater treatment processes to meet specific water treatment needs. It also enables participants to assess and design operation and maintenance plans for water and wastewater treatment plants.’

EWSETA CEO Errol Gradwell is equally enthusiastic about the initiative. ‘We see collaborations such as the one with SUWI as key to delivering on our commitment to the Minister to provide sector-specific and needs-based skills development and training, and to meeting the goals and targets set out in the National Skills Development Strategy,’ he says.

The course moves next to Eastern Cape and then on to the Northern Cape and to Faure Water Treatment Works, where lecturers from TVETs in these provinces will get to see wastewater tuition through new eyes. If you would like to join them and gain a new perspective on the business of wastewater, please contact Manuel Jackson at SUWI on 021 808 9561

Source: EWSETA newsletter