Training water professionals (B4.02)


Training water professionals is an important tool for capacity building and is necessary across the full range of water organisations. The necessary change in approach can be achieved through specially designed courses, through modification of university courses, and through on the job training programmes. Any training must be embedded in the terms of reference for water professionals and adequate finance should be devoted towards these ends.

Specific ideas include:

  • Providing tailored courses on participatory approaches and gender awareness;
  • Encouraging multi-disciplinary training involving all kinds of water practitioners, including environmentalists, economists, engineers, social scientists, and business majors;
  • Including water management in degree programmes, in engineering and other faculties, such as economics, environmental sciences, and biology;
  • Developing modules for on-the-job training to keep practitioners’ skills up-to-date
  • Developing training of trainers’ modules in new approaches and techniques;
  • Creation of short courses on water management for policy-makers, aimed specifically at senior managers without technical water backgrounds;
  • Once formal training is completed, the concepts can be reinforced through a range of training activities (e.g. on-the-job training, short courses, remote learning, sabbaticals, twinning arrangements, international short courses, etc,).

The training of trainers is a specialist area, requiring an understanding of adult learning methods and the significance of the peer group (farming community, professional water community) in creating learning opportunities. Many information exchange facilitators (such as extension officers, field guides, and field agents) come from biophysical science and engineering backgrounds, and need a cross-disciplinary training in various skills in communication, group interaction facilitation, accounting, programme management, and counselling. Training trainers in information exchange and communication requires significant input into education programmes by water resources management agencies. Methods include in-service courses, seminars, and workshops. There is an increasing emphasis on electronic means of information dispersal and training techniques especially distance learning.

Bosses can be resistant to send workers out for training because it implies absence from their work and involves external costs. Moreover, the gains from training are most perceivable at the individual rather than at the institutional level. It should be noted that institutions’ capacity yet heavily depends on the capabilities of its personal. Therefore, training of professionals remains in almost all cases by and large a win-win situation. Lastly, there are online trainings that are free and are flexible in time needs. These may be suited for organisations that are restricted in terms of financial or human resources.

Lessons learned

  • Training of senior managers (e.g. in the value of IWRM and new water innovations) can help ensure capacity building throughout the organisation, and support for training of junior staff.
  • On-the-job training is highly effective as a learning tool and agent of change in large water organisations.
  • The effectiveness of training programmes can be increased if groups of people that regularly work together are trained together.
  • Training of trainers requires extensive practical experience by the instructor but is a cost-effective capacity building tool.
  • Trainers do not require a high level of technical capability in such topics as how to construct GIS models, develop explanatory frameworks, or select the best equipment, but they do need to understand the management of institutional and organisational structures.
  • Experience shows that successful courses to train trainers combine learning by doing with classroom learning experiences.
  • Online teachings are more cost effective and flexible than traditional training methods.