The Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) has been swamped by requests from ambitious, determined and young qualified engineers who want to work for the water sector and thus be part of efforts to enhance the quality of the resource delivered to the needy citizens.
According to Verena Meyer, DWS’s Director of the Learning Academy (LA), one of the main areas in DWS which experiences a dire shortage of skills and expertise is the engineering function. She indicates that the Learning Academy has made huge strides in attracting young engineers to the department.
To date, 57 young engineers have been offered an opportunity to participate in the Professional Development programme. Three of these engineers have managed to register as Professional Engineers, while others are on various levels of meeting the required eleven outcomes of the Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA).
To boost the programme, 20 recently qualified engineers joined the Learning Academy on 19 January 2015. They are currently completing the Department of Public Service and Administration’s (DPSA’s) compulsory induction programme. They are breaking barriers at the DWS’ Roodeplaat Training Centre, and will report for duty at their various base stations with effect from 2 February 2015.
The function of DWS is of great strategic importance to the South African society. The level of productivity within DWS and the water sector as a whole has a direct effect on the South African economy.
The Learning Academy is an internal structure which was initiated in 2007 as a response to a shortage of specific skills needed to boost the production of the department (and that of the water sector in general) through its technical and scarce skills development programme. This technical structure represents an investment for sustaining the quality of DWS’ human resources, raising the level of technical and scarce skills and thereby ensuring that, in the long term, the department remains competitive as it delivers on its mandate.
The Learning Academy is designed to meet specific organisational requirements and lead a sustained campaign to secure a steady supply of high-level skills in water-related science, engineering, and various technical disciplines. It responds to the imperatives mentioned, with a dual focus of providing aspiring engineers, scientists, technologists and technicians while offering these an opportunity to be exposed to real-time professional and valuable work experiences.
The Learning Academy supports the academic development component through bursaries and experiential training. The professional development component forms part of DWS’ social responsibility in that it incubates young and inexperienced graduates – offering them an opportunity to receive on-the job-training and exposure regarding their areas of study, while introducing them to DWS’s core business.
The purpose of the Learning Academy can be summarised as follows:
Investigate technical and scarce skills development needs within the department;
Address technical and scarce skills gaps in the overall water supply value chain;
Address scarce skills gaps in specific technical areas of the department;
Plan and build capacity for medium and long-term needs of the department and the water and sanitation sector;
Develop and implement structured training for engineering and scientific graduate trainees;
Develop and propose interventions (regarding mentoring, skills and knowledge transfer, and professional registration processes) with the Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA), the South African Council for Natural and Scientific Professions (SACNSP) and the Surveying Council of South Africa (PLATO) in line with the Occupation Specific Dispensation (OSD).