Vocational training needed across the whole water industry
According to UNESCO, the demand for water will increase by more than 55% until the year 2050, due to the exponential growth of the human population in all countries and this is highlighted in Kenya, where population growth, urban migration and urban growth has led to an increased demand for safe and clean water.
To meet this demand, Kenya requires well-trained technicians in both water and wastewater management.
This can be served by a higher investment in vocational training through Technical and Vocational Education and Training institutions (TVET).
The government is addressing some of this shortage through the training of water personnel at the Kenya Water Institute and the National Youth Service but more is needed.
This type of practical training is essential to create technicians who can address the growing issues of water management in Kenya.
These include access to clean water, control of sewage and effluent, management of water resources, and flood planning.
Well trained technicians ensure that water infrastructure and sewage treatment plants are operated efficiently by following best practice and through proper planning and preventative maintenance avoid costly repairs that occur from poor design and neglect.
They also take the necessary protective measures in the event of flooding. With their knowledge and skills, they are responsible for the efficiency of processes – from energy consumption and the use of chemicals to operating the plant effectively to ensure a long service life.
To be able to keep up with the demand in clean water, the outdated processes and technologies for water catchment, treatment, supply, and use need to be modernised and replaced by efficient and sustainable technologies and methods.
In regions with inadequate technical education in the management of sewage and ground water contamination, even simple water supply and treatment utilities cannot be planned.
Nor can the existing plants and equipment be maintained, analysed, and optimised adequately. When the personnel at these facilities are adequately trained, these problems can be solved, ensuring that the clean water stays safe to consume.
It is therefore important to facilitate the establishment of more appropriate TVET opportunities in the sector, based on the practical job profiles within the water and wastewater management sector, providing technicians that are experts in their field.
Apart from just developing good vocational training and education opportunities for young people in this sector, the more experienced current workforce should undergo refresher courses and upskilling.
Water resources management employees and technicians work in different sectors all over Kenya, so what also needs to be addressed is standardisation in the industry.
Technologies in water supply and treatment and qualifications of specialised personnel in this sector vary worldwide.
TVET institutions need to ensure that the technicians and professionals attain a standard that is globally recognised but that also encompasses local expertise and challenges.
Based on the belief that a functioning infrastructure cannot endure without skilled workers, we need to develop a strategy for capacity development in the Kenya water sector by developing TVET institutions and empowering them so that they can offer the best vocational training in Kenya’s water management sector. The author is an international consultant and board member of Megapipes Solutions Limited