World Rivers Day – presenting the occupation of hydraulic technician

Germany’s many rivers provide valuable habitats, places of recreation and important transport routes for both humans and goods. Hydraulic technicians ensure that people can live safely alongside rivers. They are responsible for maintaining navigation lanes under the control of both the Federal Government and the federal states as well as for looking after waterways and the coastal area. Their remit further includes protection of the waterfront and disaster prevention.

What tasks are carried out by hydraulic technicians?

Hydraulic technicians build and maintain embankments, dams, dykes and other structures such as locks. They take care of flood protection and ice defence measures too. To this end, many practical skills such as paving, woodworking and concrete pouring are taught during training. Apprentices also learn how to operate and handle floating vehicles and floating equipment. Extra-company courses prior to and after the intermediate examination form a component of the training.

However, the tasks performed by hydraulic technicians are not limited to the rivers. They also concern themselves with other waterways and dams. Dams, for example, play a key part in supplying the population with drinking water. The work of hydraulic technicians helps ensure implementation of the European Water Framework Directive, the primary goal of which is to achieve good ecological status for all bodies of water. Hydraulic technicians assist with this objective by executing renaturation measures, for instance.

What effects is climate change having on the work of hydraulic technicians?

Hydraulic technicians experience the ramifications of climate change at first hand during their daily routine. Floods, low waters, torrential rain and droughts all exert a direct impact on waterways and on the way in which they are managed. The natural catastrophe which occurred in the Ahr Valley in June 2021 certainly brought home just how important this occupation is in terms of adapting to climate change. 

In 2022, the Federal Waterways and Shipping Administration (WSV) instigated a special scheme to support reconstruction in the region. During the course of this project, over 100 trainees restored bank areas of the River Ahr to a natural state. A method of biological engineering not previously tried in the Ahr Valley was deployed in order to bring about long-term stabilisation. This approach involved the use of twigs of willow. These begin to sprout once placed in the ground, and the roots formed then offer additional reinforcement in a natural manner.   
How does one become a hydraulic technician?

Prospective hydraulic technicians are primarily trained by employers in the public sector. These include the Federal Waterways and Shipping Administration, federal state departments for dam management and coastal preservation, regional and local government water boards, councils and municipalities and dike associations. The construction industry is, however, also showing a growing interest in the occupation.
126 new training contracts were concluded in 2022, a year in which 105 trainees also successfully completed their final examination. Duration of training is three years. An attractive advanced vocational qualification in the shape of certified senior hydraulic technician is available at level 6 of the German Qualification framework.