Ten Things You Need to Know about the Geospatial Technology Competency Model

March 29, 2012

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1) It’s useful.

Students who aspire to careers in the geospatial industry can use the GTCM to assess what they know, what they need to learn and which educational programs fit their needs. Educators can use it to assess how well their curricula align with workforce needs. Workers can use it to guide their continuing professional development plans. Employers can use it for job descriptions and interviews. Certification and accreditation bodies can use it as a basis for their requirements.

2) It’s authoritative.

A select panel of experienced geospatial professionals drafted the GTCM in collaboration with workforce analysts at the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration (DOLETA). Contributors included licensed professional surveyors, certified photogrammetrists, remote sensing scientists, certified GIS professionals, application developers and educators. The panel revised the draft GTCM in response to 50 pages of comments and discussion compiled during a 60-day public comment period. After its own internal review, DOLETA approved the GTCM in June 2010.

3) It’s inclusive.

The GTCM specifies the essential competencies common to most of the geospatial occupations. Forty-three “core geospatial abilities and knowledge” appear under the headings earth geometry and geodesy, data quality, satellite positioning, remote sensing and photogrammetry, cartography, GIS, programming and application development, and professionalism.  In addition, the GTCM specifies 19-24 essential competencies for each of three industry sectors: positioning and data acquisitioning, data analysis and modeling, and software programming and application development.

4) It’s holistic.

In addition to industry-specific technical competencies, the GTCM specifies foundational personal, academic and workplace competencies that successful workers in many fields possess. For example, Personal Effectiveness competencies include interpersonal skills, integrity, and initiative (“showing gumption at work”). Academic competencies include communication, critical and analytical thinking, and yes, geography (“understanding the science of space and place”). Workplace competencies include teamwork, problem solving and business fundamentals (including business ethics).

5) It’s selective.

The GTCM highlights high-priority competencies. It doesn’t attempt to catalogue a complete corpus of geospatial expertise. This is an advantage to many users since selectivity and prioritization are necessary for curriculum design, professional development planning and other uses.

6) It’s concise.

Compared to the 162-page Geographic Information Science and Technology Body of Knowledge, which presents over 1,600 educational objectives without considering foundational competencies, the print version of the GTCM is just 27 pages. A concise specification is easier to update in response to rapidly evolving technologies, and easier to adapt to particular contexts (e.g. beyond the U.S.).

7) It’s not occupation-specific.

The GTCM is meant to specify the expertise that characterizes the geospatial industry as a whole. Competencies specific to particular geospatial occupations can be found in DOLETA’s “O*Net” occupations database and in DACUM job analyses such as those conducted by the GeoTech Center.

8) It’s open.

The GTCM is freely available for use and reuse, without restriction, at Career One-Stop.

9) It will soon include management competencies.

The Urban and Regional Information Systems Association (URISA) is now working with DOLETA to create an extension of the GTCM called the “Geospatial Management Competency Model.” A draft GMCM is available for public comment.

10) It’s not just for community colleges.

The National Science Foundation supported development of the GTCM through its National Geospatial Technology Center. The GeoTech Center is a consortium of U.S. community colleges that’s dedicated to expanding access to geospatial education and training. However, the GTCM is designed for use across the educational spectrum, not just in two-year colleges. In fact, one of its highest priority uses is to promote “articulation” of academic credits from one institution (e.g., a community college) to another (e.g., a university).

At Esri, we plan to use the GTCM in several ways. First, we plan to re-engineer our popular Online Database of Academic GIS Programs so that prospective students can identify academic programs that specialize in select GTCM competency areas and industry sectors. Second, we envision an online tool that allows current and aspiring professionals to self-assess their knowledge and abilities in relation to the GTCM, and that recommends education and training options that address gaps they identify in their self-assessments. We believe the GTCM is an important step forward toward a geospatial industry that fulfills society’s needs as well as individual workers’ dreams.

To learn more about the GTCM and related efforts, see:


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