WESSA gets huge training contract

2011-11-03 00:00

HOWICK-BASED NGO WESSA has won a R1 million contract to develop the training courses and resource materials to address waste, water and sanitation and biodiversity issues to managers and workers in municipalities around the country.

To achieve this it has been appointed an Institute of Sectoral or Occupational Excellence (ISOE) for the Local Government Sector Education and Training Authority (LGSETA).

“This a major change in direction for WESSA,” says Liz Taylor, a WESSA (Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa) volunteer. “We are now far more than a wildlife society with a membership and a magazine, we are now doing something that can really make a difference both in terms of employment and the environment.”

The training course devised by WESSA comes in response to the legislation concerning the environment, says Jonathon Wigley, environment education practitioner, based as WESSA’s national office in Howick.

“Given all the environmental legislation, especially the National Environmental Management Act (Nema) which deals with waste, water and air, there is a great need to implant skills and there is a wide range of challenges facing local government regarding adhering to environmental legislation and achieving more sustainable service delivery.”

The various Sector Education and Training Authorities (Setas) are designed to identify skills required by the South African economy and to provide training to meet these skill needs thus creating employment opportunities.

The 284 municipalities in South Africa are catered for by the LGSETA which identified environmental practices as a priority area and appointed WESSA an ISOE.

In 2005, WESSA was accredited as an education and training provider under the Education, Training and Development Practices — Sector Education and Training Authority (ETDP Seta). Since then WESSA has offered a national certificate in Environmental Education, Training and Development Practice (EETDP) at NQF level five. Currently Wigley is finalising the course materials for a skills programme in environmental practice, this is a qualification that falls under the LGSETA.

Earlier research undertaken by the Department of Environmental Affairs in conjunction with Rhodes University produced an Environmental Sector Skills Plan for South Africa. “This identified priorities for education in different sectors, including municipalities where environment was identified as a scarce and critical skills area where education was required,” says Wigley.

“It was found that most Setas had not addressed environmental skills,” says Wigley. Another research programme completed in 2010 identified the environmental skills required in the local government sector and it is now mandatory for Setas to include environmental skills.

WESSA will offer two environmental practice skills programmes, one at NQF level five aimed at managers and another at level two. “The latter are workers or operators in waste departments, water and sanitation departments or parks and gardens departments. Course modules teach basic ecology and environment management practices and relate them to their job and demonstrate what happens if you don’t follow procedures.”

According to Taylor top-down management structures often see instructions given to workers to implement but it’s a case of how without the why. “The workers implement the practices, but they often don’t have the big picture of what’s going on.”

Consequently, the level-five programme for supervisors and managers will be done in parallel with the level two course. “This way both sets of employees will be speaking the same language and the workers will be able to interact and even have the knowledge to suggest and make changes,” says Taylor.

The courses will initially be run as pilot courses in KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga.

Wigley is still developing the course material which will be evaluated by the LGSETA in December with a view to beginning the courses in February. “There are plenty of activities, visual aids and other interactive material. We don’t want to make it text heavy as there is a wide variety of literacy levels among workers.”

When the courses roll out the trainers will be those who completed the earlier EETDP qualification. “We have 180 graduates from that programme,” says Wigley. “Some are with environmental organisations but many others, spread all over the country, are working in travel agencies or hair salons and they frequently contact us to find out if there are jobs in the environmental sector.”

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