‘The water sector needs to respond to its changing profile’ says Naomi Timmer, leader of the Human Capital Working Group in her interview


Why is it important to have a new Working Group dedicated to the theme of ‘Human Capital’?

The world is changing rapidly. Now in extreme conditions like the COVID19 crisis, but also before we were hit by a pandemic, the water sector needs to respond to its changing profile, due to technical innovations, climate change and societal changes. ‘Things’ we cannot see, touch and can easily close our eyes for. The complexity of our world and our work is overwhelming. What does that mean for us as people working in the field? What does it mean for organizations?

Development of new knowledge and roles, creates new leadership and different leaders who will fit. Organizations and individuals need to adapt. It is vital for our role in the water sector to take up this role. To ensure a future-proof workforce for the water sector. A future where not only knowledge, but especially the capability to innovate, adapt and be flexible are important criteria. The WG HC wants to support and accelerate the innovative water sector with more knowledge and support for the role of human capital in the water sector. It will create Water Europe as an inclusive organization with a not only eye for the technical view of innovations but also room for the development of innovations to the human capital.

What are the main priorities of the Working Group?

For our first two years, we have two main priorities: Create more insight knowledge on the human capital agenda in the water sector and support and accelerate collaborations on practical programmes within the human capital agenda.

Creating insight knowledge on the human capital agenda in the European water sector is our first priority. We don’t only want to reach and find out what the current issues in human capital are but also create and share more knowledge on the future agenda. What will be the urgent matters in 5- 10 years? How can water organizations prepare and create opportunities? What is needed for the sector and what does future personnel need? And of course, the working group will provide help to the water sector in defining what it can do to work on this.

To support and accelerate collaborations and practical programmes, we will also support existing collaborations and practical programmes throughout Europe. Making the knowledge, tools and programmes that already is available accessible for the members of Water Europe. How to make it easier for organizations/ regions etc. to set and create their own practical human capital policy/ programme within the framework of a cooperative European human capital programme?

What are you currently working on and what are you expecting to deliver within the upcoming year?

To work on our first priority and raise awareness of the human factor of the work in the water sector, and what it means when you take it seriously. What are the challenges and good practices of human capital in the European Water Sector?

This question was given to the first group of EJWP participants who published this last September within the Working Group. Using this publication the WG created a workshop on human capital within the water sector and published last month also a position paper ‘Towards a water-related human capital agenda for the Green Deal’ . With these actions, we do not only try to create awareness with the water sector itself but also create opportunities for more support of human capital actions from European policies and programmes.

In the next phase of the Working Group, we will continue raising awareness of the human factor at a policy level, but also at a practical level during workshops at conferences (online and offline). For our second year, we already have some great new plans as well to make it more practical.

The WG aims to work on an Employer Branding guide, including a workshop for HR personnel. It also wants to look into the human capital needs of Water Europe members and set up training curricula. We also plan to open up all good practices and activities already being developed in a platform to support collaboration and accelerate existing and new initiatives. Finally, we will continue working on creating and sharing more knowledge of the Human Capital agenda for the water sector.


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