Are You a Competent Geospatial Professional? How Do You Know?
recently spent a week helping to develop the Geospatial Technology
Competency Model (GTCM). What is it and why should you care? The GTCM
defines the core competencies and skill sets that every person working
in the geospatial profession should possess. The ramifications will be
manifold, but primarily the model will support the efforts of two
organizations. The U.S. Department of Labor (DoL) will use it to
support and promote the geospatial profession by listing these
competencies and bringing them in line with job classifications that
have already been established. The model will also support the efforts
of the National Geospatial Technology Center of Excellence
at Del Mar College in Corpus Christi, TX, which is a National Science
Foundation Advanced Technology Education center. This center is funding
the development of the GTCM. The mission of the GeoTech Center, as it
is known, is to provide educators at two-year colleges and four-year
universities the ability to develop curricula for establishing the
proficiencies required of students seeking certificates and degrees in
GIS from these institutions.
In general, the DoL uses competency models to identify the knowledge,
skills and abilities needed by workers throughout an industry and
within each industry sector. The DoL's CareerOneStop
includes competency models for many industries, from bioscience to
construction to information technology. But since 2003, when the DoL identified the geospatial industry
as one of the key technology sectors, little has been done to identify
or elucidate geospatial skill sets. David DiBiase, of The Pennsylvania
State University, facilitated the workshop I attended. He explained,
"The Geospatial Technology Competency Model has been in the works since
2001 but remains incomplete; consensus has been elusive about the
nature of the geospatial industry and the know-how it requires. ...
There has been a longstanding need to articulate what the industry
needs on a day-to-day basis for employees to complete work assignments.
[In addition] there has never been the connection or basis for
educational departments to review that what they teach is commensurate
with the needs of employers."
How does the effort to create a GTCM relate to the guidelines issued by
the GIS Certification Institute (GISCI), which are required to be
certified as a GISP, a GIS
professional? Those pursing a GISP gather materials into a portfolio
detailing educational achievement, professional experience and service
to the geospatial community, which is sent to the governing body for
approval. But the certificate is issued without an exam. Why? There has
never been a competency model with a sufficient level of detail to
specify the job functions that fall under each job. The GTCM will
hopefully be used to more thoroughly stipulate job functions and
occupations, so an exam could be created for certification.
It is also useful to understand the relationship between the GTCM and the Geospatial Body of Knowledge
(BoK) produced by the University Consortium for Geographic Information
Science (UCGIS) in 2006. The Geospatial BoK is an exhaustive listing of
formal educational objectives related to geospatial information
science. The GTCM is more generalized and tries to focus on those
competencies and tasks that a geospatial professional may encounter
over the span of a career. For example, an individual's proficiency in
geospatial technology should serve him or her in many occupations,
whether he becomes a GIS technologist knowledgeable in a specific GIS
software solution or decides to specialize in a specific discipline or
domain like forestry or urban planning.
Another important use of the GTCM is to be able to position geospatial
technology relative to other professions. Little has been done,
for example, in understanding the crossover between occupations like
GIS and the biosciences. Each profession may possess certain core
competencies similar to the other, but without the GTCM there is little
basis for this type of appreciation or correlation.
The creation of the GTCM goes to the heart of what has been missing
from GIS since there were enough of us to have a profession called GIS.
We could never truly articulate what we did every day when we went to
work. We could never put ourselves into job classification "buckets"
that allowed employers to associate a job with a job skill set. It is
important now for the Department of Labor to articulate both the demand
for geospatial professionals and the skill sets that make those
professionals qualified to do the job. This will help to develop the
workforce necessary to meet the demands in this industry, which spans
broad applications from military intelligence to location-based mobile
The committee will complete the GTCM very soon with input from various
geospatial technology organizations. The GTCM is scheduled to be
submitted to the DoL by this summer.
To send feedback about the efforts of the GTCM working group, send an email to David DiBiase.