“Let’s impose that a significant part of infrastructure development programmes be devoted to the operation and maintenance of networks, dams, treatment plants. For this purpose, let’s train more men and women to be prepared to these daily tasks. Every year, the world needs tens of thousands of technicians and managers capable of running irrigation, water supply or sanitation utilities.”
(Loïc Fauchon, President of the World Water Council)
Although still too modest, the issue of vocational training for the water sector found its way during the recent World Water Forum in Marseilles.
The INWTC Member Organizations were also invited to present their experiences and recommendations at an event dedicated to training, organized at the "French Pavilion"
by the International Office for Water (IOWater), Permanent Technical Secretariat of the Network, and several of its partners, including ONEP (Morocco), DINEPA (Haiti), the ICRC, Suez-Environment, etc...
An agreement was signed on 15 March 2012 for creating "AQUACAMPUS"
by AgroParisTech – ENGREF, ENGEES, 2IE, ONEMA and IOWater for the organization and dissemination of Master degrees for future managers of French-speaking administrations and water utilities.
All the papers and photos of these events, held during the last World Water Forum in Marseilles from 12 to 16 March 2012, may be viewed and downloaded from the website: www.inwtc.org.
Many contributions were received on the Forum website and the “platform for solutions" or directly by the INWTC Secretariat.
These sessions allowed hearing speeches from various organizations, representing the various partners involved and the different parts of the world, and from many training organizations presenting their practical experience in the field. They gave wide room for debate and lively and rich discussions!
A large majority of participants converged on the interest of appropriate training, either at the national, regional or international level, depending on the types of needs to be met in order to cope with global challenges in the management of resources and aquatic ecosystems, to ensure the design and construction of new infrastructure, the operation and maintenance of water utilities, etc.
Taking into account these many contributions, the general conclusions and recommendations drawn from discussions can be summarized as follows:
Achieving the Millennium Development Goals for drinking water supply and sanitation and facing the food and energy challenges require new infrastructure and the improvement of the quality of services to meet the users’ needs. These objectives require more efficient operation and maintenance, renewal of the installations, and better governance of the services, capacity building and human resources.
Although they are still insufficient, many investments are realized each year in the water sector. Often, these investments do not achieve completely their goals because of design flaws, but also and above all of many shortcomings in their management and operation. Many infrastructures are deteriorating too quickly and thus there has been a significant waste in credits.
The actions are still too oriented towards achieving the equipment priority alone without sufficient concern for the conditions for its subsequent economic management, operation and maintenance, or the proper account taking of the "Great Water Cycle" as a whole.
Basic and continuing VOCATIONAL TRAINING is an essential tool to enhance the efficiency of community water utilities …
Skills and professional abilities for executives, technicians and above all workers are still too often very underdeveloped in almost all emerging countries:
Capacity building and the institutional, economic and technical training of water professionals are therefore essential to allow a more efficient organization of uses and community services.
The staffs concerned are very numerous and the needs significant:
for instance, for an Urban Water Utility covering 1,000,000 inhabitants, the number of employees of all levels needed is estimated at 500 to 700.
The hierarchical distribution of these staffs varies according to the studied geographical areas. The workers are the most numerous although the number of managers and technicians tends to increase with the level of development of the different countries:
||1 - 5 % ||10 - 15 %||80 - 89 %|
||5 - 15 %||25 - 30 %||55 - 70 %|
Most of the staffs concerned are workers who, in too many developing countries, still have little or no training!
The cost of labour accounts for up to one third of the total cost of the water utility, to optimize this significant expenditure, it is essential to improve skills through basic and continuing training for these professionals.
But this is an area still largely underfunded both by governments and operators and even by bi and multilateral donors who are the first to complain about the negative consequences of this situation!
It would therefore be advisable to better support vocational training in the water sector through sustainable financial mechanisms. The ways to achieve this may be:
∙ Financing training as part of the investments as a percentage of new construction or rehabilitation works.
∙ Establishing "Specific funds" at the national level for the development of vocational training, fed by taxes or contributions proportional to the payroll of companies or by a percentage of the selling price of water.
∙ Planning the employees’ training in the budgets of (public or private) water companies up to at least 2% of the payroll.
Bilateral or multilateral Official Development Aid (ODA) and programmes devoted to water of international cooperation organizations, should incorporate these principles, as well as the experimentation, evaluation and exchange of know-how in vocational training, including by supporting networks for cooperation between training centres (type INWTC ...).
Without planned investments in vocational training, the consequences will be:
∙ a limitation or even a decrease in access to quality drinking water supply, sanitation or irrigation services,
∙ impossibility for service managers to prevent problems,
∙ quick degradation of the installations that will have to be rebuilt,
∙ inability to operate the facilities at full capacity,
∙ ultimately reduction of the effectiveness of the ODA public funds.
Vocational training is a productive investment and should be considered as such in development projects.
There are hundreds of thousands of agents, at all levels, and mainly at low hierarchical level, and only speaking their local language, who must be employed in water management over the world.
Needs are thus huge and can be met through:
∙ graduating basic training to provide the sector with young qualified professionals which is a great need,
∙ lifelong and continuous training of the working staff to allow a real professional qualification, which is usually insufficient.
The efforts of international cooperation should include:
∙ systematic account taking of continuing professional training in any investment project,
∙ strengthening or establishment of training institutions,
∙ facilitating knowledge exchange,
∙ reconciling research and training
The International Network of Water Training Centres (ICFME / INWTC) now regroups 15 partner organizations from Algeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, France, Kenya, Laos, Lebanon, Mali, Morocco, Mexico, Poland, Togo, Tunisia, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, etc.. It is chaired by ONEP.
There are currently more than twenty projects at least worldwide for the establishment or strengthening of water training centres, which are still waiting for funding after serious studies having confirmed the need and their feasibility!
All issues raised will not be solved by a miracle, as time lost is important, but undeniably the strategic importance of vocational training and the benefits of cooperation between specialized training institutions, were heavily highlighted during the World Water Forum in Marseilles!