Subtheme 8: Skills of EAPs and Government Officials
* Angela Andrews of the Legal Resource Centre assisted in compiling this summary of the Specialist Report
To ensure that environmental assessment practitioners (EAPs), environmental management inspectors (EMIs), and government officials have the recognised set of skills for effective analysis, assessment, and decisionmaking in the environmental impact assessment and management process.
Environmental management is multi-disciplinary, drawing upon skills and knowledge from many different specialised fields including sociology, economics, heritage studies, public participation, and a range of natural sciences (geology, botany, zology, atmospheric studies, aquatic studies, etc.). The EAP, as project manager of an EIA or other environmental planning tool, must bring all these subjects together into a coherent whole. Government officials, in their decisionmaking capacity, must also understand several different contexts within which a development takes places (land use management, human settlements, biodiversity targets, ecological resilience, climate change, cumulative impacts).
Status Quo / Problems
1. High turnover rates in the environmental sector, leading to lack of institutional memory and inefficiency in the system. See 10 Year Review of Effectiveness and Efficiency of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) System in South Africa (2008).
2. High vacancy rates in the biodiversity sector. See Human Capital Development Strategy for the Biodiversity Sector study by the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI). They also found that 34% of core biodiversity staff hold positions for which they are under- qualified.
3. No environmental SETA: According to the Skills Development Act No. 97 of 1998, Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs) must develop skills development plans for various sectors within the framework of the national skills development strategy. SETAs areto establish learnerships, approve workplace plans, allocate grants to employers, provide training, and monitor the education and training in the sector. Currently there is no specificenvironmental SETA, but because environmental management skills cut across so manydifferent sectors, the DEA issued an enabling document for all SETAs to include those skills into their development plans. In addition, a new Energy and Water SETA will deal with many environmental skills.
4. Environmental skills not included in the National Skills Development Strategy II (NSDS II). In June 2010, the DEA made a submission to the National Skills Authority (NSA) to include environmental and sustainability education and training in the NSDS III.
5. Substantive skills in demand: The Environmental Sector Skills Plan (ESSP) was developed by the DEA in 2009–2010 and identified critical skills that are in demand in the environmental sector, which includes leadership, sustainable development planning, risk management, environmental monitoring and compliance (inspection), specialist skills, climate change assessment, information communications and technology, environmental law and policy, environmental ethics and social justice policy, and education, mentoring, and training. The Department of Labour does not include all of the environmental sector’s needs on its Scarce Skills list.
6. Management skills in demand: This subtheme report identified non-substantive skills necessary for effective management. These include report and business writing, people management skills, analytical and communication skills, organisational skills, problem solving, and conflict resolution.
7. No professional registration requirement: Currently there is no official registration body for environmental practitioners. However, on 7 April 2011, the Environmental Assessment Practitioners’ Association of South Africa (EAPASA) was launched and will apply to the Minister to be recognised as the official registration authority for EAPs. For now, the Interim Certification Board (ICB) of Environmental Assessment Practitioners of SouthAfrica (EAPSA) provides a voluntary certification system for EAPs, the South African Council for Natural Scientific Professions (SACNASP) requires registration of professional natural scientists, and the Southern African Institute of Ecologists and Environmental Scientists (SAIE&ES) provides voluntary certification of ecologists and environmental scientists. See Subtheme 5 for a more detail on EAPASA.
8. South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA): SAQA is charged with advancing the National Qualification Framework (NQF), standardised guidelines to measure learner achievement. SAQA helped develop the criteria for EAPASA certification, which marks a significant step in setting baseline criteria and a national standard for the EAP profession.
Strategic Outcomes & Proposals
1. Respond to the changing global environment
a. Support development of a Training of Trainers Programme to increase the number of people qualified for green jobs.
b. Support development of skills programmes addressing those skills that are in demand.
c. Work with the Ministry of Higher Education and Training and the Department of Science and Technology to improve enrollment and graduation rates in environment related sciences, with special focus on historically disadvantaged students.
d. Align school curricula with the needs of the market.
e. Align work placements and internships for students graduating with desirable skills.
2. Ensure the attraction and retention of skills
a. Training and Development: Increase the number and length of environmental learnerships and internships; offer training courses, seminars, and workshops; assist career management.
b. Work environment: Provide safe and healthy working conditions, fair compensation, and career advancement opportunities; reward innovation; value diversity.
c. Financial incentives: Provide financial assistance to students through bursaries; increased compensation for scarce skills and merit awards.
3. Career Development Planning
a. Increase mentorships: DEA should explore funding or incentivising them.
b. Promote culture and system of career planning within organisations: Formulate succession plans (timeframes, skill targets, training and coaching).
4. Promote Continuing Professional Development (CPD)
a. Encourage short courses, so that busy professionals can attend. Short workshops can focus on a specific skill or topic.
b. Accredit training courses for CPD points.
c. Incentivise attendance by correlating CPD targets with certain benefits. (Note that EAPASA will require certain CPD targets for continued certification).
5. Promote Knowledge Transfer and Learning
a. Encourage informal learning networks and communities of practice (CoP), such as membership in the International Association of Impact Assessment (IAIA), brownbag lunches, lunchtime talks.
b. Encourage or require formal learning networks, such as professional registration, attendance at conferences, workshops, and meetings.
c. Stem loss of institutional memory through good recordkeeping and knowledge management.
d. Hold orientation programs for new employees with relevant and current information.
e. DEA efforts: DEA should explore offering training courses like the Department of Water Affairs currently does; DEA Capacity Building and Training Unit should consult with related professional bodies (such as planning and engineering) to include environmental criteria in registration.
6. Promote Inter-disciplinarity
a. Train EAPs to understand and evaluate findings from various disciplines and combine them into a coherent whole that advances sustainable development and helps decisionmakers.
b. Ensure that other professionals involved in environmental management (town planners, engineers, architects) understand the principles of NEMA, the value of ecosystem goods and services, and the variety of environmental management tools at their disposal.
7. Increase Focus on Implementation Rather Than Assessment
a. Focus skills development and training programs on the post-approval monitoring, compliance, and enforcement stages of environmental management instead of pre- approval assessment stage. See Subtheme 4: Monitoring and Compliance for more detail.