Water operator training – Certificate II and III funded in 2023

Posted by: Brendan Guiney on 05/04/2023

Water operator training – Certificate II and III funded in 2023

Do you have training gaps to fill in your water operations team? Training Services NSW and the Department of Planning & Environment - Water have collaborated to provided hundreds of fee free training places both as full qualifications and part qualifications – skillsets.

Before you express your interest, the devil is in the detail. There are a few factors to consider, which we will cover here for you in our latest blog. Teamwork is important between your water/sewerage services team and your Human Resources team to design a water operator training program at your Local Water Utility.

Got questions or comments on this blog? Want to express your interest in securing fee-free training? Email us here. If you are only interested in a few Units of Competency rather than full certificates, you can go to our blog on Training for your existing staff – part qualifications, Skillsets, under Smart & Skilled


The availability of accredited water operator training in regional NSW has been in decline since 2019. The situation was summarised in a previous blog we wrote in 2020, Addressing skills gaps in water. Since then, Water Directorate has collaborated with DPE Water in the first phase of their Town Water Risk Reduction Program with the delivery of their Water operations skills and training action plan, the latest version was issued in December 2022.

We were pleased to read that the NSW Minister for Lands and Water along with the Minister for Skills and Training  in their media release, Securing the future for regional town water supply, launched a second two-year phase of the Town Water Risk Reduction Program in December 2022. The announcement includes significant additional funding to implement the Water operator skills and training action plan. In terms of fee-free places to train water operators, funding for training is provided through the Training Services NSW's existing Smart and Skilled program for apprentices, trainees and existing water industry workers.

While this is incredibly good news, there are a few issues to address along the way.

How does Smart and Skilled funding work? How do I apply?

The process involves Registered Training Organisations applying for places under the Smart & Skilled program. To do this, RTO's need to be confident that there will be take up of the training places that they apply for. That's the purpose of this Expression of Interest process - to identify the number of training places needed, the desired Units of Competency aligning with the desired Certificate level (Certificate II, III or IV).

Before engaging with an RTO or undertaking a tender process for RTO's there are a number of factors you should consider. Our goal needs to be quality, fit-for-purpose training for our water operators so that we can safe drinking water and protect public health and the environment.

Training delivery - online, classroom or on-the-job?

In recent years there has been a significant trend towards online and on-demand training. This is helpful as it promotes flexible training delivery that can work around a trainee's work schedule and personal commitments. However there are limitations with online training if we want to training that's deliver fit-for-purpose. Water operators use a range of specialist plant, tools and techniques and work in a range of potentially hazardous work sites which means you can't get away from hands on training.

We need to ask our RTO's about their training delivery - is it classroom based? Delivered over Teams? What do the training materials look like? Are they relevant to our water utility work in regional NSW?

The importance of regional collaboration

The majority of Local Water Utilities in NSW have small water and sewerage teams. Its not easy to free staff up to attend training, or to build up a suitable number of trainees to make training affordable and effective.

Local Water Utilities need to get together with their neighbours to build training cohorts. Its more efficient for Local Water Utilities and learning together achieves a better result for your staff.

Too busy or too tired to train this year?

A developing opportunity is the potential for relief operators from outside your organisation. This is a function that you could consider to free up your existing staff to attend training, or potentially during or following major incidents to address operator fatigue.

If you are interested in the possibility of using relief operators, contact us.

Availability of experienced trainers and assessors

There is no doubt that there is a heavy burden in the training sector generally in obtaining and maintaining the necessary qualifications and experience to be an accredited trainer. As a result, there are not enough trainers in the water industry at present, in NSW or around Australia.

We need to ask RTO's about which trainers they intend to use to train your operators. Are they available to train and assess in your region? Have they worked in a water utility before? How much water industry experience do they have in the skill area you are requesting?

The Water Directorate will continue to advocate to enhance the Water Trainers and Assessors Network so that trainers can obtain and maintain their accreditation more easily. We will also collaborate with facilitate an additional Expressions of Interest process for experienced water operators and professionals. The Water Directorate is also advocating for competency assessment in the field to complement online and classroom based competency assessment.

Not all the Units of Competency we would like are on scope are available with every Registered Training Organisation (RTO)

11 units of competency are required to achieve a Certificate II in Water Industry Operations, and 11 units are required to achieve the Certificate III. There are different ways of assembling various Units of Competency to achieve either certificate. In fact, elective units can be included from outside the National Water Training Package (NWP).

Not just any 11 units will do. Most regional water operators require an appropriate mix of Units of Competency (UoC’s) that address general water operations, networks and a basic level of water/sewage treatment expertise. Larger Local Water Utilities (LWU's) may want specialist water treatment operators based on higher complexity water or sewage treatment plants.

We need to look at what NWP units are being offered by an RTO and whether they are relevant to your operator's needs. Insufficient NWP units of competency may lead to inadequate water operator competency.

What about the Department’s training in 2023?

DPE Water continues to offer water and wastewater operations training to local water utilities. These courses do not lead to nationally accredited certificates as the department does not have an agreement with accredited RTO to offer these courses. However, the contents of these courses remain similar to courses that were previously accredited to Certificate III level, and are suitable for competency training of operators for water treatment plant operations and wastewater treatment plant operations through hands-on experience to achieve practical competency. Further info on course dates, locations and costs in 2023 available here.

What would we recommend for a generalist Certificate II or Certificate III in Water Industry Operations?

Not sure where to start with Units of Competency? At the bottom of this blog is a list that you can use as a conversation starter with Registered Training Organisations.

What about the Certificate IV?

Stay tuned. Recommendations are coming in a future blog!

Where to from here?

We encourage our member Local Water Utilities to urgently look into their water operator training needs whilst fee-free places are on the table from the NSW government. In doing so, its important to be consider these critical factors in delivering a fit-for-purpose training program at your Local Water Utility.

Water Directorate is advocating for a comprehensive workforce survey and workforce development plan to give the NSW government and the training market the confidence that they need to invest in training materials and to develop more water industry trainers.

Recommendations for a generalist Certificate II or Certificate III in Water Industry Operations

There is a wide range of Units of Competency (UoC) in the National Water Training Package (NWP). The purpose of the list below is to provide an indication of common NWP units that a Local Water Utility would expect to need in regional NSW.

Certificate II in Water Industry Operations

Core units

  1. BSBWHS211  Contribute to the health and safety of self and others
  2. NWPGEN018  Follow environmental and licensing procedures

General elective units

  1. NWPGEN020 Sample and test source or drinking water
  2. NWPGEN024 Identify the role and functions of the water industry
  3. NWPGEN027 Monitor and operate pump stations
  1. NWPNET019 Prepare and restore work site
  2. NWPNET020 Control electrical risk on metallic pipes
  3. NWPNET040 Maintain and repair network assets for wastewater
  4. NWPNET047 Install, maintain and repair hydrants
  5. NWPNET061 Maintain and repair network assets for drinking water
  1. NWPTRT005 Monitor and operate water treatment processes
  2. NWPTRT027 Monitor and operate wastewater treatment processes

Comment: While only 11 units are needed for the Cert II there is 12 in the above list. These are the units we recommend, and if the extra unit can’t be funded under Smart & Skilled we recommend council considers funding the extra unit themselves. Other units could be substituted from outside of the NWP to remove NWP units that might be irrelevant to a particular role at a specific council.

Certificate III in Water Industry Operations

Core units

  1. BSBWHS308 Participate in WHS Hazard Identification, risk assessment and risk control
  2. NWPGEN019 Assess, implement and report environmental procedures

Common (whether or not a position specialises in networks or treatment)

  1. NWPGEN017 Apply the risk management principles of the water industry standards, guidelines and legislation
  2. NWPGEN026 Provide and promote customer service
  3. TLID0021 Store and handle dangerous goods and hazardous substances


  1. NWPGEN020 Sample and test source or drinking water
  1. NWPNET018 Disinfect network assets
  2. NWPNET020 Control electrical risk on metallic pipes
  3. NWPNET030 Identify and respond to water quality problems
  4. NWPNET035 Perform odour and infiltration investigations
  5. NWPNET047 Install, maintain and repair hydrants
  6. NWPNET051 Monitor and operate water distribution systems.
  7. NWPNET052 Monitor and operate wastewater collection and transfer systems


Treatment Units of Competency or Skillsets can be grouped and then selected as appropriate to an LWU’s circumstances with its particular treatment plant processes:

  1. NWPGEN020 Sample and test source or drinking water
  2. NWPGEN021 Sample and test wastewater
  3. NWPGEN022 Perform laboratory testing
  1. NWPTRT008 Operate and control iron and manganese removal processes
  2. NWPTRT010 Operate and control sedimentation and clarification processes
  3. NWPTRT015 Operate and control coagulation and flocculation processes
  4. NWPTRT019 Operate and control granular media filters
  5. NWPTRT020 Operate and control membrane filters
  6. NWPTRT022 Monitor and operate hypochlorite disinfection processes
  7. NWPTRT036 Operate and control activated sludge processes
  8. NWPTRT037 Operate and control nutrient removal processes
  9. NWPTRT040 Operate and control digestion processes
  10. TLID0021 Store and handle dangerous goods and hazardous substances

Comment: Only 11 units are required for the Certificate III. Based on the job role, if extra units can’t be funded under Smart & Skilled we recommend council considers funding extra units themselves to achieve a suitable generalist operator, or treatment specialist. Other units could be substituted from outside of the NWP to remove NWP units that might be irrelevant to a particular role at a specific council.

Certificate IV in Water Industry Operations

Recommendations coming soon!

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