There are always ups and downs to the situations we find ourselves in. While surveying tools have greatly improved, these hard times have given large numbers of professionals the impetus to upgrade their components. Applying technological advances in our field means the work gets easier and the number of tools required is reduced as more and more measurements are made with combination devices that do a better job than the previous generation. As these machines become more capable, less effort is needed to produce superior results, and the value shifts from the field to the office. Scanners and 3D datasets make surveyors more like data managers than data collectors, and software reduces the proceeding work to something that is best done by the person working directly with a client.
While this advancement is great for the professionals already in practice, it really cuts the opportunities for those who are just coming into the profession. In North Louisiana, there are few to no opportunities to enter the field since there are no available, traditional base positions. Those few that do exist are often tenuous and temporary, quickly replaced with more technology or eager and vastly more experienced personnel than a recent college graduate with five years of intermittent work experience.
Even if there is a position as a rodman, instrument tech or draftsman, that would only limit the application of what we have spent so much effort learning. New graduates of surveying and geomatics programs have a wealth of knowledge just waiting to be shared and put to good use. Read any article on the use of advancements over the last five years, and you will see how we, as a profession, understand something very valuable to applications outside of just boundary work. The process of attaining a PLS is one aspect of a “geomatician’s” ability, and the people running the operations can look to these new graduates to adopt new ways of doing business.
Molding into these new ways of thinking takes a lot of work, so here are a few suggestions from the experiences of others. If your company doesn’t have a GIS, hire a graduate to build one and calibrate your field and office data to work in it. If you have instruments that are not automated and don’t know much about your choices, hire a graduate and let them research the best options for your particular business model. If you don’t have a business model, most graduates with a bachelor’s degree have business courses under their belt, so they could help with that, as well. If your business already has invested in new hardware and software, the most recent graduates likely have the most updated knowledge on their use and can make the process of surveying more efficient and profitable. Getting involved with the student body at your local higher education institution will help make sure their graduates have the skills and knowledge your looking for. Location-based services, machine control, survey grade online parcel maps, forensics, and any other type of business needs the services advanced geospatial companies can offer.
For all the potential abilities that new graduates have, turning knowledge into an effective real-world solution and making that education pay are still things only experience can provide. Given the current lack of opportunities, I know of some soon-to-be graduates who are considering joining the military to gain experience in developing and managing spatial information. Although this is a valid path to take, most students would prefer to join with a company that is looking to begin using more advanced tools and information or to continue improving on what they are already doing.
One way or another, these fresh graduates will be the ones managing the businesses in the next five years. To use a modified old adage: Graduates only work cheap while they are still new at this, so hire them now or pay them later. The question is, which are you going to choose?