As the New Year grinds into motion I take a look at the spatial education industry within Australia. Recently the Spatial Sciences Institute (SSI) and the Institute of Surveyors Australia (ISA) merged and formed the Surveying and Spatial Sciences Institute. (www.spatialsciences.org) This single body represents all the geomatic sciences and industries in Australia and is the representative body for FIG (http://www.fig.net) on the global stage.
The amalgamation of these two bodies was not an easy task for the merger committee to accomplish throughout 2008 and 09. Firstly, in Australia, the Surveying discipline is divided between a traditional surveying degree and a Geographic Information Sciences degree thereby leading to a distinction between a surveyor and a GIS/spatial professional. This divide itself is quite uncommon within the global industry as we can see from the FIG definition of what a surveyor is:
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A surveyor is a professional person with the academic qualifications and technical expertise to conduct one, or more, of the following activities;
• to determine, measure and represent land, three-dimensional objects, point-fields and trajectories;
• to assemble and interpret land and geographically related information,
• to use that information for the planning and efficient administration of the land, the sea and any structures thereon; and,
• to conduct research into the above practices and to develop them.
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As with the definition above, the divide within Australia of a Surveyor and a Spatial/GIS professional is potentially damaging and can affect the next generation of potential surveyor/spatial professionals. The need for capacity building within the industry is now paramount as we have seen with the explosion of ‘location’ services. By providing a professional consultancy to location information, the Surveying and Spatial industry is primed to become a leading force for the future.
In guiding the next generation into this industry it is important to focus on building a ‘brand’ that easily defines what we do and showcases the value to the overall Australian economy. By doing this the definition of the Spatial/Surveying industry remain a key challenge to the overcome and ensure that the general awareness of the industry becomes known to the lay-person.
In building brand it is important to focus on grass root development and linking the outcomes of what we work on day to day to lead to recognising the learning courses available throughout our universities. We see in Australia that Surveying and GIS generally falls under the Engineering or Science faculties with some other universities grouping ‘spatial’ within the urban development faculties. A single identify that is easily recognisable will no doubt drive the industry forward. It is good to see that the first steps have been taken with the merger. Now it is up to us to instigate the cultural change throughout our peers to fully recognise and drive the future directions of the industry.
p.s. My ranting here is part of a joint presentation titled “Identity Crisis:
Challenges and Capacity Building for Next Generation Surveyors” that will be given at FIG 2010 in Sydney (April 11 – 16). More information can be found at www.fig2010.com)