Future Technician Preparation: Geospatial Technologies

With the first pass at advanced manufacturing technology, agricultural and bio-technologies, energy, environmental technology, Information technology, and micro & nano technologies under our belt it is time to start the conversation as to what Geospatial Technologies’ role is in the life of the “Future of Work” technician. The basic questions remain the same: how do new technologies influence the technical workforce and what do future technicians have to do to secure knowledge of and comfort level with related specific subsets of existing STEM connected skills?

Remember that our motivation has a twofold intent: one is for you the other is for us.  First you need to know what new technology in the workplace does generate different (possibly new) expectations for that technician workforce.  Second, we want to engage as many people interested in the development of the nation's technician workforce into the conversation as to how NSF can facilitate lowering the impact of that skills gap.

Geospatial Technology is booked ended by unforgettable visuals.  The first stages of Geospatial Technology are completely characterized by the cartoon that shows a car sailing off a cliff, the driver’s eyes in bemusement, and the GIS proudly announcing that it is “recalculating”.  This is countered by today’s TV car add showing a set of cars (as unmanned autonomous vehicles) safely proceeding down the highway.  In the first case, the GPS system was barely a GIS system that could figure out the coordinates of the car and its hapless driver, while in the self-driving care scenario, the GPS system is light years beyond GIS and performing matrix algebra on multiple sets of rapidly acquired accurate and precise coordinate information.  Thus, the tasks and duties of technicians in Geospatial Technology have changed and will continue to change.

Careers for Geospatial Technicians that focus on programming, repair, and replacement of GIS

systems will decrease as the accuracy, reliability, simplicity, and durability of the systems continue to improve.  Interestingly, the classic GIS application is still needed (with jobs available) in Australia and, presumably, other countries that are still mapping their geography. However, GPS technologies have now expanded to include technologies that must acquire, manipulate, and store geographic or spatial specific information acquired through remote sensing.   Environmental sciences applications are and will continue to be driven by seamless GPS, remote sensing, and geofencing tools.  Other career options that demand supportive STEM skills are available and unfilled. 

Unfilled skilled jobs mean that the applicant pool is not acquiring the needed skill during their education phase and/or the integration of the different skill set is not easy.  In the case of the Geospatial Technology technician the challenge is both STEM skill identification and then curriculum integration.  This reality brings us back to our perpetual closing theme.  "The work to do starts with you."

Industry and academics must help identify the new skills needed.  Remember, substantial change in curriculum requires more specific guidance from this industry.  So, as with the previous sectors of interest to ATE presented in this series, success requires people that are in all areas of this industry.   What should technician preparation programs spend the time and money on?

 NSF-ATE is listening and can put its resources into action in respond to what it hears so now is the time to speak up.  Think about the skills needed. Contact us.  Send us your thoughts.

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