ArcNews Online

Summer 2006

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Arizona State University GIServices

Supplying Better Graduates for the Geospatial Industry

In his article, "Defining the Components of the Geospatial Workforce—Who Are We?" (ArcNews, Winter 2005/2006), Duane Marble addressed current needs of the geospatial workforce. He noted that academic programs are not producing graduates that meet the needs of the geospatial industry. One of the main contributors to this fact, according to Marble, is that "existing academic geospatial programs have been established with little or no feedback from the geospatial industry to assist them in identifying the specific knowledge and skill sets that are required to support particular geospatial activities." Arizona State University (ASU) and the Arizona Geographic Information Council (AGIC) are working to address this issue.

ASU and AGIC are hosting a GIS Career Fest on October 11, 2006, from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. The goal of the GIS Career Fest is to bring local GIS practitioners to campus to meet with geospatial students and provide the GIS practitioners a venue to impart their future workforce needs. A panel of five GIS practitioners will answer some questions addressing what they need from future employees and what is lacking in the current supply of graduates. The students will then have time to visit with some 20 local organizations (public and private) that use GIS. During this time, the students will be shown what types of jobs are available, the required skills, and the pay scale for those jobs.

It is the supposition of the organizers that educators are telling their students that more is required of a geospatial professional than the ability to manipulate existing GIS software. However, with all of the buzz going around about the importance of geospatial technologies and the great need for geospatial practitioners, students might not be listening to their professors.

It is predicted that a message coming from future employers will be more important to the students and will affect the students' future academic studies. This program will provide the students an opportunity to realize the areas in which they need to focus the remainder of their academic careers. It has the added advantage of showing local GIS businesses and companies that ASU and higher-level education programs are producing quality future GIS professionals that will contribute to their companies' various goals and visions.

The GIS Career Fest could be a model for academic programs and local GIS practitioners around the country. It can place GIS education programs on the path toward the goal stated by Marble: "Those individuals who make up the geospatial workforce must be capable of dealing with a continuing pattern of rapid change, as well as with the substantial challenge of adapting existing knowledge and tools to use in a variety of new, complex situations. Thus, flexibility, spatial problem identification and solving capabilities, and an above-average knowledge of computer and information science, as well as the ability to spend their careers in a near continuous learning mode, become critical characteristics at nearly all levels of the future geospatial workforce."

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