The recently expanded Kafue Gorge Regional Training Centre in Zambia, Africa, is offering training for hydroelectric operations and maintenance personnel at all levels
The Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) region is rich in hydro power and potential hydro power resources, and Zambia has more than 60 years of experience with such technology. Today Zambia has more than 1608MW of installed hydro power capacity, of which Kafue Gorge power plant alone has 900MW.
In December 1987, a joint Zambian and Norwegian team investigated the training needs of SADC countries. In their report, it was recommended that the training centre that the Zambia Electricity Supply Corporation (ZESCO) had started at Kafue Gorge power plant, for training of the corporation’s personnel in main power stations and control centres, should be rehabilitated and re-opened as a regional training centre.
A decision was taken to support the development of the new training centre during 1989-92, and the facility became known as KGRTC (Kafue Gorge Regional Training Centre). The project, financed by ZESCO, the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD) and the Swedish International Development Cooperation (Sida), involved the rehabilitation and expansion of the existing training centre, and implementation of a number of training courses for hydro power station personnel in SADC countries. During the project period, training fees and course participants’ accommodation were paid for by the project; the intention being to gradually make KGRTC self-dependent economically.
A training survey, conducted later and financed by Sida, revealed a higher and somewhat different need for specialised training in the power sector than registered by the Zambian/Norwegian team in 1987. ZESCO, NORAD and Sida therefore approved funding for the 1993-95 period allowing a programme that included five of the defined courses from the training needs survey.
The demand for electricity is growing, and there is an increasing number of units and larger capacities interconnected in complex power systems, as well as the necessity to consider environmental, financing and profitability aspects. These factors demand that an increased number of highly qualified personnel is needed to operate plants and networks. KGRTC is obliged to provide this training and the necessary skills needed for hydro power operations and
Joyce Mwiinga is an example of a course participant who underwent training and changed her career. Mwiinga worked in the hotel industry before she joined ZESCO in 1998. She was recruited by the human resources department and worked in the catering services from 1998 to 2001, based at the guesthouse as a chef and later as a ZESCO Club officer in Kariba Town. The changes in ZESCO saw her to move to operation duties in the power house.
After a one year in-house orientation, she was identified for training in hydro power plant operations at KGRTC in 2002. She undertook a 13 week course in hydro power plant operations at the centre and nine months practical in-house training. At present she is confirmed as a plant operator and working at the second largest power station in Zambia, Kariba North Bank, with installed capacity of over 600MW. The course she followed in Hydro Power Plant Operations provides hydro power production background to participants whose career is in operations and work within the plant. The equipment and procedures at Kafue Gorge power plant are used as a reference for the training. The centre has also installed two ABB simulators – one conventional, the other computerised – that mimic the hydro power plant operations.
Mwiinga recounts the practical approach that the centre has put on the courses with encouraging remarks. The training on the simulators helped her grasp the operations activities much faster; it provides flexible learning as scenarios can be changed at will by the instructor. Faults are simulated and the reactions from the operators are monitored. This gives instructor-led and personal-paced learning for effective participation and is then changed to group-paced learning to accommodate shift work. The participants are also attached to normal shifts at the power plant. The practices at Kafue Gorge power plant, which is within the vicinity of the training centre, helped her broaden and develop her knowledge to that point that, upon leaving and returning to her workstation, she says she felt like a totally transformed worker.
Participants of KGRTC are given increased knowledge of techniques and modern methods of plant operations and maintenance planning. The courses further stimulate the participants’ personal developments and skills and tie theoretical and practical knowledge by arranging visits to other power plants and industries. Study tours are undertaken to hydro plants, major substations and control centres. The tours offer course attendees the chance to familiarise themselves with different types of power plants, operation activities and common problems in hydro power utilities.
There is increased mutual understanding of operation and maintenance problems and the centre makes it possible for the exchange of experiences between the participants with the various disciplines of hydro power operation. Furthermore, the participants are offered close cooperation with all major hydro power personnel in the region and a forum for sharing knowledge and experiences with one another.
The training centre conducts evaluations of each of its course components, which enables attendees to respond openly about the course topics, materials and instructors. Thus far, the courses have generally received favourable responses from participants. This method of evaluation has also been used to improve on the course contents and duration. Deliberate follow-up visits to utilities after training have also been used to identify needs and training gaps in hydro power operations in the region.
KGRTC is at present offering a number of courses. Several new courses have been introduced recently to answer the needs of utilities in the SADC region, as well as other industries that find these courses of interest. A few non-engineering course have also been introduced to assist technical and non-technical personnel.
Table 1 shows the courses the centre has scheduled to run this year, for the best utilisation of both water and energy resources in hydro power generation, water utilities, mining, manufacturing and other services. A star denotes a new course introduced this academic year 2005.
The centre has a Sida scholarship for women empowerment, which allows female participants on all courses at KGRTC to pay only 50% of the course fee. Apart from running scheduled courses, KGRTC has the capacity to run tailor made courses both at the centre and clients’ premises. The training centre is also ISO 9001:2000 certifiedfor quality training provision
For more information, contact: Kaela K. Siame (Training Manager) Kafue Gorge Regional Training Centre, P.O. Box 32774, Lusaka. Tel: 260-1-371007/8. Fax: 260-1-371086. Email: www.kgrtc.org.zm