Next Generation Geospatialists

News from AGEO, Austria

One issue faced by geospatial professions nearly worldwide is a perceived lack of students moving into these fields. ‘Perceived’, to some degree, because there are few crisp divisions between and definitions of disciplines, perhaps with the exception of surveying engineers authorized for e.g. cadastral surveying. Otherwise, we observe a lot of horizontal mobility between digital fields. Computationally competent professionals getting spatialized, Geographers and Planners going digital, and continuing education focusing less on updating but re-skilling and transversal mobility. The number of graduates from the UNIGIS distance learning program for in-service professionals demonstrates that nothing is lost by not getting into ‘geospatial’ right from the start 🙂

However, it is evident that industry and institutions across the globe are in need of larger numbers of staff educated in spatial thinking, geospatial concepts, representations, methods, analysis design and geomedia communication. While ‘some GIS’ is included in many curriculum options across numerous disciplines, core Geoinformatics programs are not exactly overrun and the number of dedicated programs might actually be shrinking.

AGEO as the Austrian Umbrella Organization for Geographic Information is confronting this issue and addressing the bottleneck at the time of initial career choices through several measures:

  • Exposing secondary school pupils to location based technologies and interfaces certainly is a key element of any successful strategy. The most visible outreach event, coordinated nationally by AGEO, is the annual GIS Day. Many hundreds of school children attend a range of colorful events, taking home first impressions that beyond Google Maps there is careers in multiple sectors of economy and society.
  • An even broader outreach is being achieved through involvement in teacher pre-service and in-service training: using the increasing practice of online learning, currently biweekly seminars are offered to teachers, covering mobile apps, interactive online maps and of course numerous themes tying in with curricula in a mix of subjects.
  • With the ageoBOX initiative, AGEO provides a rich collection of online resources to teachers. This gallery ranges from storymaps and apps to all kinds of resources immediately applicable in the classroom, thereby creating a diverse set of experiences with the common denominator of benefitting from geospatial media across themes.
  • AGEO also is serving as a national platform for cooperation and coordination among educators at universities. Many of these are the lone faculty within their department and all benefit from the opportunity to exchange experiences and to share resources.
  • As an annual highlight, an award is given to the top master theses accepted at any geospatial program. This not only provides recognition for outstanding graduates, but also creates visibility for the discipline and another connection with industry and practitioners who are the majority of judges for the selection of winners.

These examples are just a selection of possible courses of action which can be taken to showcase the potential and the promise of a geospatial career to the next generation of technology oriented professionals. We certainly would be interested to compare notes with our sister organizations, and keen to work together to create enhanced visibility for these exciting pathways into a digital world.

Obviously, lots of people are excited by maps and atlases, enjoying the ‘macroscope’ view of our world. Similarly, older as well as younger generations are fascinated by the ease of traveling an online map, navigating a virtual globe and very literally finding geographic information at our fingertips. Building on this intrinsic motivation and connecting with professional perspectives sounds like a natural move.

A ‘Digital Earth’ is increasingly important for managing our real world. This is the broad vision of the International Society for Digital Earth, whose biannual symposium in 2021 will be held in Salzburg with the support of AGEO. As importantly, it will feature a ‘Youth Forum’ – you’ll find your invitation here!