Training of treatment plant operators in South Africa faces particular problems. First, the political changes in the past decade have led to a complete restructuring of local government. An integral part of the ongoing restructuring process is an aggressive programme for black economic empowerment. This brought many new faces into local government without the practical experience to which the water industry is accustomed, coupled with a massive displacement of technical skills from the sector. From 1989, the number of civil engineering professionals (engineers, technologists, technicians) has dwindled from 22/100,000 of the population to 3/100,000 of the population in 2007. Second, the Water Services Act (1997) of South Africa shifted the burden of water supply squarely onto the shoulders of district and local municipalities. The dilution of skills, coupled with increasing responsibility, makes it clear that the water sector in South Africa will have to train itself out of this predicament. As a result, the quality and focus of training programmes, especially at the operator level, is receiving renewed attention. This paper shares the experience of the development and refinement of a training course for filter assessment for operators over the past eight years.

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