Educational lifelong learning programme for WWT operators in Estonia
Since Estonia’s accession to the European Union ca 1 billion euros have been allocated to the local water management sector. This size of investments is an indication of how modern and automated is the sector overall.
Considering the degree of automation today, some of the water and wastewater treatment plants could be operated via smartphone. This is a challenge leaving no one indifferent. However, despite the big leap in development, people working in this sector are still the same, with the same knowledge, and young enthusiastic people do not feel much urge to join the sector.
A study commissioned by the Ministry of Environment on the wastewater treatment plants built with EU support revealed the sad fact that despite the top-notch equipment and automation the results remain inadequate without a proper operator.
“It’s not that once we built it – that’s it. What about the future? We should be also able to keep it running. What is to be done then? The operator should be the first to understand that something is wrong. So, he will have a look at it, examine, and then tell the engineer there is probably something wrong”, Jaak Jaaku, professor in microbiology tells. This kind of approach enhances the role of the operator’s profession.
To increase the level of knowledge in plant operating, a special two-year study program for operators was launched in Järvamaa Vocational Training Centre (JKHK) in September 2017. The study program was prepared jointly by the Estonian Water Works Association (EVEL) and JKHK. Ivar Kohjus, the leading teacher in JKHK and one of the authors of the program, says 20% of the learning process takes place in the classroom and the rest is made up of a practice in a company. Over this two-year period, the students will have over ten different lecturers. The studies will culminate in a vocational examination and the prize for successfully passing the courses is a professional certificate that meets the European professional standards.
Even though the whole program today is taught in Estonian, there is also one student from Nigeria among the first 24 students, who is doing pretty well at Estonian.
“We have a vision – we want to create an international centre of excellence for water treatment operating in Järvamaa Vocational Training Centre. The basic training courses taken within the framework of the vocational training must be followed by a systematic further training. We want to gather everything in one centre, because this way we can be more effective,” Managing Director of EVEL Vahur Tarkmees said.
Next group of students will start their water operator studies in autumn 2018.
Ivar Kohjus Lauri Lagle
Leading Teacher, JKHK Engineering Adviser, EVEL
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