Training centre seeks to boost water treatment sector

Materials World magazine
1 May 2018

Khai Trung Le looks at how the new Clearwater Technology training facility aims to address the skills shortage impacting the water treatment sector.

A new water and air hygiene training centre from Clearwater Technology, UK, hopes to challenge the skills shortage and provide additional support for those looking to enter the water treatment industry.

The skills gap has been a persistent problem for the UK engineering sector for years, with Clearwater referring to a 2016 survey from the Chartered Institute of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM) as indicative of the staffing problems afflicting the water treatment sector. Over 80% of respondents experienced an increase in staff turnover, and 70% stated the skills shortage impacted completion of projects, in addition to strongly defined gender disparity.

Paul Englefield, Academy Technical Training Manager at Clearwater, told Materials World that training was previously conducted in the field with supervisors. ‘They have the capability but not necessarily the time. That’s why Clearwater invested in the training centre,’ said Englefield. ‘Whereas we previously trained engineers in specific tasks, now we can train all kinds of individuals in multiple tasks, with the end goal being more efficient and able to pass on these skills to the client.’

The centre will cover cleaning and disinfection of water systems, cooling tower treatment, chemical dosing systems, and air handling units, duct work, and kitchen equipment among others, with a number of courses City & Guild accredited. Englefield said this covers around 85% of Clearwater’s services.

Trainers at work

Training has been at the forefront of development since Clearwater’s acquisition in 2015. Englefield said, ‘At the time, we were one of the leading UK water treatment companies in every field but training.’ Clearwater expects to support up to 400 employees by the end of 2018, and Englefield is considering opening training beyond Clearwater employees based on feedback from clients and the Water Management Society. Apprenticeships are also a possibility. Englefield continued, ‘Trainees get to practice in a safe and clean environment, preparing them for work that can sometimes take place in less comfortable conditions, such as cooling towers located in manufacturing plants.’

Specialist water treatment sees extensive use across multiple engineering sectors. Ultra-pure water is required as a carrying agent in chemical manufacturing, and solvent in the production of electrical components, and for pre-treatment and purification processes in pharmaceuticals, as well as in cooling and heating systems.

However, awareness of the water treatment sector is low. At the release of the 2016 report, Terry Fuller, CEO of CIWEM, remarked that the water sector was not proficient in promoting itself or its benefits. Englefield believes training can be a potential route to improving awareness of the importance of water treatment, with the Redditch training facility allowing the company to better demonstrate the processes.

Englefield said, ‘Clearwater works in every sector. But there are many that perhaps have not been given knowledge or understanding of water treatment. For example, there are a lot of manufacturing companies with water treatment needs that don’t have it on their products. The only way to [correct this is] to go out there, and speak with the clients and manufacturers.’