Through analysis and quality education to new professionals

The „Clean Serbia“ Project, which has a goal of preserving the environment and raising the living standard of residents through the construction of sewage network, wasteswater treatment plants i landfills more often than not runs into the problem of lack of professionals during the process of implementation.  Professor Dr. Dragan Povrenović, from the Department of Environmental Protection Engineering, who deals with the water and wastewater technologies, as well as with the biprocess engineering at the Faculty of Technological Metallurgy, says that, at the very beginning, we require an analysis of our own resources, a studious approach to various factors and more information for young people so that they may become successful and recognized in this field.

Back in 2017, certain Ministries of the Republic of Serbia indicated the problem of lack of professionals in the environmental field, which is necessary when one looks at the challenges of standard conformation and application in that field in the process of European integration. Not much has changed from then until now.

Above all, we are in a problem because we did not think ahead of time, who in Serbia should address those problems, in what way and in cooperation with which professionals or what do we already have available in Serbia? We often resort to having someone from the outside tell us that we have a problem and then we confirm it and see what can be done in a rush instead of having a domestic, studious approach that should also use other people’s experience, but primarily rely on local knowledge, local wisdom and experience and then we look at what the problem is, how big it is and how we can address it? This does not only apply to wastewater treatment and environmental protection, but also to a broader approach that has unfortunately been lost on us many times so far. At the beginning of everything, when it comes to solving any problem, we have to look at the capacities that we already have,”  Povrenović had to say.

Povrenović explains that assistance outside the country in addressing the problem can only be requested after we practically know what we are dealing with and after we have created a program on how to address the problem. If assistance is requested immediately, it does not necessarily have to be implemented in our country, because we may have a different structure of the problem, which leads to even more confusion, not a solution. “I don’t believe that when there is a problem in the house, we call a neighbor to solve the problem, but in accordance with our own capacities and resources, we solve our own problem.” We don’t have records of what we have and in which fields,” the professor explains.

Real practice indicates that if the Ministries have programs that they wish to implement, the Ministry of Education must be the one that will follow the requirements and development directions of those programs. Is the solution to finally gather both of them at a single place so that the work is synchronized?

We must understand that in the last twenty or more years, the staff in the Ministry of Education has been changing at such a pace that it is impossible to respond adequately from that position. Practically speaking, just before one receives certain information and starts working, there is a change in staff, so the new ones need time to be informed again and so on in a vicious circle. And this is not the case only with that ministry. Just take a look at how many people we have had in all ministries from 2000 up until now. Engaged among other things in innovation activities and the competition for the best technological innovations in Serbia, my colleague Ivana Begović is our ninth minister since 2005, with whom we are talking about this topic. This has a negative consequence, because really from personal experience, first being in the position of Deputy Minister, and then State Secretary in the Ministry of Science and Environment from 2004-2007, I personally know that it takes time to study something and see the problems, and only then can one, as the people would say, “take matters into your own hands” and start implementing and adopting the program. First of all, knowledge and a clear vision of what one wants to do during one’s mandate is necessary. Consistency is what is required,”  Professor Povrenović emphasized.

According to him, for 50 years, the Faculty of Technological Metallurgy has been dealing with environmental protection, teaching and research, so that any composition of the ministry did not determine what would be taught, but it was a need that was redefined, the teaching programs were renamed and the ministry itself does not have a major impact on the mentioned programs. “Many programs were verified in Serbia, without actually deserving to be verified. We in Serbia have, in certain university centers, places where certain issues are studied, somewhere more, somewhere less successfully, somewhere better, somewhere a bit worse, but we have a basic problem that in certain branches we do not gather to talk about what the basic problem is”, claims Professor Dr. Dragan Povrenović.

As someone who deals with wastewater treatment and technologies, but also with improving innovative activities and spreading awareness of the need to create innovations in all areas, especially in the environmental domain, Povrenović says that we seem to lack the calculation.

This is the most classic calculation, which is to take a pencil, write down the items, draw a line and then see what the result is. That is what we are fundamentally lacking, and above all, all eyes are turned abroad, where someone is waving at us some money which usually turns out to be much more expensive than we had previously imagined. The favorite discipline of decision makers when it comes to wastewater treatment is to go somewhere to see wastewater treatment because it seems they did not learn about it before, and what they immediately do is look at the surface of the water, and the water purification treatment is not done on the surface of the water but in its depth, and what lies in the depths, how it all works, can only be known by those who have dealt with problem solving. More than once have I encountered situations that range from funny to somewhat sad, where they turn to me and say, professor, we bought such and such a system, would you please explain to us what we bought? Now all those who read what I said should ask themselves, would they ever give their personal money for something they don’t know what it is?

Professor Dr. Dragan Povrenović points out that first of all we need to know what personnel we already have for certain problems in Serbia, primarily in the field of wastewater treatment, and only then make a decision about which and what quality personnel we should train. Only then, as Povrenović explains, should the public be informed about the staff we are talking about. “We have to talk about it in public so that young people understand that they really can build a career in certain branches.” I often have the opportunity to recommend a good student to a company, and many companies are looking for them, they are paid very well for our standards, but now young people think that only in the IT sector can something be achieved because such an environment has been created. That environment dictates that the IT sector will bring food and drink and water and everything else, and at the same time we have escaped from one basic condition for sustaining life, which is creation in all areas, not just one that is being promoted, which I’m afraid with one click can be moved to another meridian. It is up to us that those who make decisions gather quality people from this field or perhaps some other fields, but above all, the one who gathers must know who these quality people are and know the topic, and not for someone else to tell them or suggest it. That’s why we have to analyze not only who is where, but also who makes the decisions. It’s like that for every area of life”