GITA and AAG Tackle the Geospatial Workforce

By Adena Schutzberg

Bob Samborski was a bit nervous about the Geospatial Information and Technology Association's (GITA) ability to handle a large grant from the Department of Labor to help grow the geospatial workforce - until he partnered with the Association of American Geographers (AAG).GITA is no stranger to grants, but this grant was big, $700,000, and required industry and academic input.

Where did the grant come from? The Department of Labor had provided a grant to the Spatial Technology Industry Association in 2004.Unfortunately, the organization was not able to work on it and "passed it along." GITA stepped up to take on the challenge because of the importance of the work to both its members and the industry.

Samborski sees the partnership as "required." "The AAG is concerned with educating the workforce and our members want to hire the students." The two groups will feed back information to one another to be sure each one has the information to best play its role in the grant work and later in the marketplace.

Samborski laid out the five part plan for the work.

First, the industry needs a definition.Other fields have a pretty clear boundary, but geospatial does not.And, moreover, it's not a field with which the general populous is familiar .This work will start with a small team at Wharton penning a white paper on the topic. The plan is to distribute it far and wide for input, and convene a larger group to create a solid base definition.

Second, the two groups will work on outreach.They'll need to share the definition and the nature of the industry with those inside and outside the industry, to young people, their parents and school counselors and the like.

Third, those students will need to get information on "where to go to get" training and "what to do when they get there." That is, they'll need to know what kinds of schools and which schools offer programs in geospatial and what courses to take once there to achieve their career goals.That information will be collected and distributed by a Web portal, the Geospatial Industry Workforce Information System, GIWIS, pronounced "gee whiz."

Fourth, the team will put the effort on the ground with a prototype in a region.That will physically bring together educators, employers and others to grow the effort.Other efforts will hopefully follow in other areas.

Finally, the team will need to find a way to make the portal and regional efforts sustainable, once the grant runs out.Samborski feels confident the industry will be able to do that."It's too important for them not to do so," he offered.

GITA and AAG will be looking for input from all corners of the industry in the coming year on this important work.Stay tuned.

Published Monday, August 1st, 2005

Written by Adena Schutzberg

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