“Surveying and geospatial technologies and services have been identified as the key to Australia’s future productivity,” says project director George Havakis. “However, there is a wide spread and serious skills shortage in all sectors of the industry at all technical levels, and with decreasing numbers of graduates from universities, this is expected to get worse. The skills shortage not only affects the mainstream surveying and geospatial industry but also other major industries such as local government, mining, infrastructure, emergency services and utilities, who are major surveying and geospatial users and where the use of these technologies, data and services underpin many of their routine processes and workflow.”
Mr Havakis said that the decline of certificate courses available in both urban and rural areas was creating additional pressures for industry and removed the opportunity for students to select surveying or geospatial courses as a career.
“Developing an e-learning program through the VET sector has the potential to deliver training anywhere, any time,” he added.
Mr Havakis said that the spatial industry was working towards a more coherent approach to holistic workforce development.
The project is being supported by a consortium of peak industry bodies, spatial organisations and companies, including the Spatial Industries Business Association, the Surveying and Spatial Sciences Institute, the Spatial Information Council, the Queensland Spatial Information Council, the Council of the Reciprocating Surveyors Boards of Australia and New Zealand, the Intergovernmental Committee on Surveying and Mapping, the Co-operative Research Centre for Spatial Information and the Office of Spatial Policy.
One important recent initiative was the grant of $3.2m from the government’s Critical Skills Investment Fund to upgrade some 320 technicians already employed in the industry in Queensland, but who have no formal qualifications.
“This new e-learning program is an important supplement to these activities and will help many enterprises, particularly those in regional areas, to provide opportunities for employees and or students to receive further training and bolster the pool of talent available,” says Mr Havakis.
“We see it as the forerunner of a long-term training strategy for workforce development.”
The project will initially develop and trial two primary units of study – Collect basic GPS data and Store and retrieve basic geospatial data – which are considered the foundation for other spatial skills. These skills are highly in demand by industry as global positioning systems (GPS) are one of the main means of collecting spatial data in the field.
While several registered training organisations (RTOs) have already expressed interest in collaborating on the project, the project will include an outreach campaign to raise awareness of e-learning and VET qualifications. The project has been made possible through funding from the National VET E-learning Strategy, whose Peak Industry Bodies Programs sponsors the adoption of e-learning growth opportunities at the level of whole industries through their peak bodies or associations.
The National VET E-learning Strategy is the responsibility of the Flexible Learning Advisory Group (FLAG), a key policy advisory group on national directions and priorities for information and communication technologies in the VET sector.