German automation manufacturer Festo is in talks to sign a memorandum of understanding with the South African Energy and Water services Sector Education and Training Authority to enable local training organisations to present its aquatronics diploma course, which is a cross section of electrical, mechanical and chemical skills used in the water sector.
The two-year course will culminate in a National Qualifications Framework Level 4 qualification, says Festo Germany global product manager for environmental topics Daniel Gauch.
The company also developed additional one-and-a-half-year specialisation courses, which focus on specific skills required by different water treatment processes, such as wastewater treatment or industrial water treatment, after completion of the core aquatronics course.
“Any country or company can access, adopt and adapt the Festo curriculum and defined skills document free of charge for its own water skills programmes,” says Gauch.
“The core aquatronics course will provide sufficient skills for employment in any of the water-related industries. “Those who complete it can also choose to further specialise in water, wastewater, industrial water or industrial wastewater treatment.”
Anyone with two to three years’ experience of working in the water sector is eligible write an entrance exam to participate in the aquatronics course and the subsequent specialisation courses. This is modelled on Germany’s dual system of education and workplace professional development.
Festo conducted a global comparative study on the skills and level of expertise in water, wastewater and industrial water-treatment works, which found that most skills are developed ad hoc or on the job and that a broad range of skills is necessary in the water sector.
“The aquatronics course [comprises] electrical, mechanical, chemical and biological components to provide the broad range of skills required in the water sector. It is based on the mechatronics discipline of Festo and does share some skill sets with it, but emphasises the skills of importance to the water sector.”
“The courses were designed using information from the study and input from Festo’s partners and clients in Germany. The course does not replace national standards, but provides a good baseline of skills and standards required by the water sector,” Gauch notes.
“The responsiveness of education to industry needs is a significant challenge worldwide. The aquatronics skills document is meant to be updated regularly and adapted to the needs of industry.”
A very effective vehicle to improve relevant skills development rapidly is through a global skills forum, such as the WorldSkills national and international competitions, since a key benefit of such competitions is the extensive interaction within industry and among educators and government officials they afford.
The teams consist of industrial apprentices and trainees, as well as technical and vocational teams, which brings together the educators and industry professionals who guide the teams, providing a robust platform for benchmarking best practices to meet industry demands.
“Festo Didactic and the German International Cooperation Agency (GIZ) trained 400 water and wastewater professionals in South Africa three years ago as part of the development of the course,” concludes Gauch.