Lead Editorial: On the State of Formal Lighting Education in South Africa featured in EE Publishers’ Vector Magazine

This lead editorial is featured in the April edition of EE Publishers’ Vector Magazine – http://www.ee.co.za/article/on-the-state-of-formal-lighting-training-in-south-africa.html

Colleagues and fellow lighting professionals asked me back in 2012 about the state of formal training for lighting practitioners in this country. I had to give them the only answer, as alarming as it was: precious little was being done in South Africa to promote careers in professional illumination engineering.

In the past, the Illumination Engineering Society of South Africa (IESSA) offered a correspondence course through the good work of the late Robbie Yates, but it offers only short courses nowadays. To make matters worse, no tertiary institution at any level offered formal courses at the time, and still don’t today.

After considering what could be done to remedy the situation and to ensure that South Africa would not end up with a dearth of suitably qualified illumination engineers, I set about the arduous task of developing a curriculum for a correspondence course, aiming to obtain accreditation from professional institutions.

The aim was not just to match any current degree or diploma course offered at tertiary institutions abroad, but to raise the bar and to leave a lasting legacy for the lighting and built environment communities in South Africa. So, by the end of 2012, the BHA School of Lighting saw the light of day.

The next task was to write the manuals and to ensure that the content was academically correct and up to date. We had to write 30 manuals for the course, some of which consisted of up to seven volumes or sub-manuals.

The course was originally offered as a correspondence course in illumination engineering and over forty people enrolled within the first few months. We soon discovered that demand for papers was sky-high because students had to upload their tests and exams for the facilitator, who had to download and mark them before uploading their results.

The industry had no suitable e-learning platform, so we launched our own after careful research and consideration. That was in April 2014. One month later, in May of the same year, the course status was upgraded to a diploma course and registered with the Department of Higher Education and Training.

Consulting engineers, too, have trouble understanding LED lighting technology fully. Consultation with them over time highlighted their particular difficulties with the technology and we now provide five-hour special tuition sessions at their various premises to address their very real and practical concerns.

Faced with this dire shortage of formal training, South African illumination professionals also have to come to terms with developments such as the Fourth Industrial Revolution and lighting technologies such as power over Ethernet (PoE); visible light communication technologies including WiFi and LiFi (where each luminaire becomes a communication hub); indoor positioning systems; Bluetooth Mesh and other disruptive technologies essential to the illumination industry.

It is impossible for our lighting school to make up for the tertiary lighting education that professionals did not receive. We need more innovative ways to impart the knowledge so essential to ensure that South Africa will have competent lighting professionals in future. We must enable them to translate the theory into successful lighting projects using the latest available technologies, but this industry, like any other, is in desperate need of the formal training it deserves but is not receiving.

PHILIP HAMMOND

BHA SCHOOL OF LIGHTING – 20 MARCH 2018

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