Education and Capacity Building at BEGEO October 2021 by AMFM BeLux

The Education and Capacity Building track started with a morning session chaired by Danny Vandenbroucke (KU Leuven). The session was briefly introduced by Hans Breemersch, President of EUROGI. Peter Zeil from Spatial Services GmbH explained the idea of developing a Copernicus Academy Hub for sharing knowledge, stimulate innovation and outreach in the EO*GI sector (CopHub.AC). Danny Vandenbroucke from KU Leuven presented the results of the EO4GEO Sector Skills Alliance including a Body of Knowledge, a tool ecosystem and method for designing and developing case-based education and training on EO*GI. Finally, Eric Bayers, from NGI-BE introduced the need for collaboration between the NMAs and the academic world through the EuroSDR association. Participants discussed and agreed that more education and training initiatives based on such cooperation should take place, and that starting from real-world problems in such training is key to have students that can more easily enter the job market. Moreover, it was clear from the discussion that there is a huge potential for the sector because the ‘where’ question is everywhere and many current societal challenges require EO*GI data and technologies to solve them.

The afternoon session, chaired by Peter Zeil (Spatial Services Ltd), was dedicated to specific conditions related to the provision of GI education and careers. Prof Justine Blanford (ITC University of Twente, NL) reported on a unique global survey and exchange among GI educators which started before and continued during the pandemic situation. Key observations concerned the immense challenge for educators to substitute traditional classroom teaching by on-line tools with not enough time for preparation. However, in the course of events, the ‘digital push’ generated new ideas for presenting material with the welcoming effect of reaching out to more participants than traditionally. How to improve the dissemination of spatial principles in secondary school education, was the topic of Luc Zwartjes’s presentation of Universiteit Gent (BE). His team supports in particular teachers with innovative tools and methodologies adapted to the digital literacy of pupils to prepare a generation equipped with spatial thinking. Nathalie Stephenne (Walloon public services, SPW, BE) presented the initiative Women in GI and Copernicus. The members of the platform have carried out an extensive survey elaborating on the role and the situation of women in the sector. The message emanating from the findings clearly calls for strengthening the position of female researchers and providing more incentives for fostering careers of women into leading positions – based on capacity, without gender bias.