Training of Protected Area Staff (TOPAS)
TOPAS means "Training of Protected Area Staff" - a continuing education programme for employees of European large scale protected areas, which was designed according to consistent pan-European criteria.
The International Environmental Protection Organisation IUCN emphasized in their action programme "Parks for Life" that well educated employees are essential for the administration and development of protected areas. Their education should be of the highest priority.
Thereby, not only technical skills but also administrative and communicative skills are increasingly important.
The TOPAS project responds to the demands of European nature conservation organisations such as the EUROPARC Federation, the International Ranger Federation (IRF) and the IUCN for a large scale European initiative to standardise education and continuing education measures for employees of protected areas.
The TOPAS project was launched at the end of 1999 in the International Sonnenberg Centre in the Harz National Park by an internationally staffed group of protected area Directors, representatives of European nature conservation areas and continuing education institutions as well as other experts. NNA took over this project in 2003 being already project partner and brougt it to a successful end 2004.
The focus was on developing standards for the regular continuing education of the staff of European large scale protected areas. Education institutions developed continuing education courses for a pan-European consistent lesson schedule in cooperation with protected area staff from the whole of Europe. In doing so they contributed considerably to a high standard of new occupational qualifications.
The developed continuing education materials were then made available on the TOPASwebsite to enable distance learning to participants from the whole European Union and the accession countries.
During the project, courses on various topics were developed by each project partner (Developing Partner, DP). After the course content was checked by a technical control group (Technical Board, TB) every course was tested by another project partner from another country (Testing Partner, TP). Therefore the translation of the courses into the native languages of the TPs and the adjustment of the courses to the local conditions was necessary. The testing of the course was evaluated in cooperation with the DP to optimise the course as far as possible. Finally, the courses were certified to ensure a pan-European standardisation of the continuing education programme, and they were made accessible on the internet.
Courses on the following topics were developed in the framework of the TOPAS project:
- Sustainable Woodland Management
- Sustainable Tourism and Visitor Management
- Mountains: Sustainable Development and the European Context
- Protected Area Management Planning
- Habitat Management, Habitat Restoration
- Foundation Ranger Training
- Basic Interpretive Skills
- Interpretation of Basic Ecology