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Defining Success in the Geospatial Industry

Competency model can aid staff hiring, retention, and development

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With the release of the Geospatial Competency model in July 2010, the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration (ETA), codified the education, training, and skills employees need to be successful in the geospatial industry. ETA joined industry partners to promote greater understanding of the skill sets and competencies essential for successfully educating and training a globally competitive workforce.

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Competency models define successful performance in specific jobs, job groups, organizations, occupations, or industries and are the foundation for recruitment and hiring, training and development, and performance management.

Competency models have been developed for industries that are economically important, projected to have long-term growth, or being transformed by technology and innovation. Industry-wide models capture the broad baseline skills and competencies common to an entire industry rather than just an industry sector or occupation.

While competency models can benefit many groups—business and industry, economic developers, educators and training providers, professional organizations, and students and their parents—they can be a valuable resource for managers because they articulate workforce needs and define the requirements for employee success in a job or at different levels during a career. Codifying this knowledge can lead to better hiring and retention practices and provide focus for training and professional development efforts.

In addition to the Geospatial Competency model published by ETA, managers, educators, and others can tailor the model to meet their specific needs using the Build a Competency Model Tool at the ETA site. This tool lets organizations build or customize industry competency models that can serve as the foundation for recruitment, hiring, training, professional development, career planning, and performance management. Customization of a model can start with an industry model or use the generic building blocks model as a framework.

The recently published model had been in development at ETA since 2005. In that year, the geospatial industry, along with biotechnology and nanotechnology, was recognized as a high-growth industry. Not only were these sectors expected to add a substantial number of jobs, but they were also identified as having the greatest potential impact on the economy. In addition to being characterized as having a bright future generally, many specific occupations in the geospatial industry are also characterized as "green"—occupations likely to change as a result of the growth of green economy activities. This model is designed to evolve along with changing requirements of this field.

In creating the Geospatial Competency model, ETA collaborated with the GeoTech Center and industry and education leaders in the development of a comprehensive competency model for geospatial technology. The GeoTech Center works with colleges, universities, and industry to expand the geospatial workforce by supporting the creation of teaching and curriculum resources, assisting in professional development, and establishing career pathways for geospatial technicians. A panel that included Esri staff members, along with representatives from the American Society of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS), the Urban and Regional Information Systems Association (URISA), academia, and the geospatial industry, drafted the Geospatial Competency model. To learn more about the Geospatial Competency model, visit

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