Certain occasions call for evangelization and this is one of those times. For the last three years, I have been a member of the National Visiting Committee, the oversight body that advises the National Geospatial Technology Center (GeoTech Center) in its mission to advance education at two-year colleges. The most profound accomplishment of the GeoTech Center during this period has been the completion of the Geospatial Technology Competency Model (GTCM), a descriptive treatise that supports the development of geospatial technology curricula at the community college level. The GTCM lists the core competencies necessary to become a qualified geospatial technologist. In addition to curriculum development, the GTCM can be effectively used as source material to create job descriptions and other professional guidelines.
The GTCM was developed by a core group of geospatial professionals led by David DiBiase of Esri. I, too, served with this group. The U.S. Department of Labor (DoL) has since adopted the GTCM as the standard by which the geospatial technology community can develop model curricula. It also provides a foundation for GIS certification and serves as a model for creating job descriptions in the public and private sector.
Why is the GTCM Important?
The GTCM should serve as the template for the development and advancement of geospatial technology education, certification and job skills worldwide. For the first time, we have a foundation for improving the quality of the geospatial workforce at all levels. It works in tandem with the previously created “prescriptive” and much more comprehensive Geographic Information Science and Technology Body of Knowledge, also edited by DiBiase. The GTCM is useful for both educators and employers. It has the potential to change the professional development path of those in the industry, and to elevate geospatial technology to a critical field in enterprise computing and IT. In addition, the GIS Certification Institute (GISCI) is using the GTCM to help develop the first GIS Professional (GISP) certification exam.
However, if you are not familiar with the GTCM you represent the most crucial barrier facing its success. This lack of visibility for the GTCM and its potential to support an identified need for qualified employees in the geospatial technology sector could render it ineffectual. The DoL has stated that over 330,000 geospatial technology jobs will need to be filled over the next 10 years. We need to train an entirely new workforce of professionals as geospatial analysts, remote sensors, cartographers and other geospatial technicians. The GTCM skills should show us the way.
It is important to understand the relationship between the aforementioned initiatives and players. The GeoTech Center is responsible for supporting and evaluating the GTCM, which is leveraged by educators to develop programs that lead to professional development and a more skilled workforce.
Community colleges benefit from the work of the GeoTech Center because it is developing model courses and curricula that give educators a prescribed plan to educate students seeking a certificate in GIS.
What’s the Challenge?
I challenge all of us in the geospatial community to become more aware of this important endeavor and I will outline what you can do. However, the challenge has become more acute, as we learned three weeks ago that funding for the GeoTech Center from the National Science Foundation will not be renewed. We expected funding for the next three years in order to continue model course development for two-year community college educators and to revise the GTCM. We resolve not to let this unfortunate setback curtail this critical pathway toward professional development and the education of a more skilled workforce.
What can you do?
If you work in geospatial technology and want to know more about the GTCM, review the presentation (watch the video or download the presentation) by David DiBiase entitled, “2010-The Year Geospatial Came of Age.” It will show you the relevance of the GTCM, the jobs expected by the DoL and some career advice.
If you are looking to improve your skills, the GeoTech Center website has a database of community colleges, which is searchable via its web map, to help you locate the one closest to you.
If you are a GISP, you should indicate your support for better guidance on professional development to make your certification as a bona fide professional even more powerful. Write to Sheila Wilson, GISCI director, and ask her how this might impact your re-certification.
If you are an educator in either a two- or four-year educational institution go to the GeoTech Center’s website, review the curriculum guide, download the program assessment tool, get a login for its model course design server, and let GeoTech Center Director Phil Davis know that you are interested in using the available tools to develop your curriculum.
If you are an employer or prospective employee, look to the GTCM for guidance on how to construct an employment announcement and the DoL’s Online Information Network, O*Net, for a listing of skills recommended for each geospatial profession. The GTCM will show you the exact skills an employee should demonstrate for critical work functions.
One of the more interesting developments that has come from the work of the GeoTech Center and the development of the GTCM is that, despite a specific focus on two-year college programs, the results are relevant to four-year degree programs, as well. Many universities are using the course assessment tools to see how well they meet the GTCM.
I urge you to get more involved with, and more aware of, what’s going on with the effort to formalize training and workforce development in our profession. In the end, this is all about jobs, job skills and a more rigorously trained geospatial workforce. It’s worth your time to get involved, learn more and support these efforts.