Can we rise to the next generation upskill challenge? GEO Careers aims to do just that.

GEO Careers DEC-Roots-Eco-ClassroomChatting to teachers at a recent school parents’ evening reminded me once again of the gulf that still exists between the classroom and the real world of infrastructure and the built environment.

While there is without question a growing appreciation of the career opportunities associated with Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) subjects, it is abundantly clear that few teachers, advisers – and consequently few students and parents – really appreciate the impact that digital transformation is having on the built environment career opportunities.

Not least across the geospatial sector. What was once a world of theodolites, levels, angles and mud is now morphing into a cutting-edge world of digital modelling and smart remote monitoring.

Yet as we have seen recently through programmes such as Class of Your Own (COYO) which, with its ‘Design Engineer Construct!’ (DEC!) curriculum, it is possible to bridge this divide; to integrate the real world of sustainability, architecture, engineering and construction into a fun and useful “learn anytime, anywhere” approach at school.

It is an approach that will be brought to life at the GEO Business event in May via the GEO Careers programme of activities and presentations for students aged 14-19. Working with COYO, challenges will include an ambitious project to laser scan the Business Design Centre venue’s ornate 1862 cast iron single span arch roof using the latest high tech kit.

The aim is to ensure that students are left in no doubt that a career in the geospatial industry will place them at the forefront of a digital revolution, spearheading transformation of the skill base across the entire built environment sector.

It is a vital issue. Without doubt the prospect of a “hard Brexit” departure from the European Union underlines the need for the United Kingdom to step up a sluggish performance when it comes to developing and expanding its technical skills.

“We have particular skills shortages in sectors that depend on STEM subjects, where we need more of these graduates to compete successfully in a global economy,” says the government’s latest consultation green paper on building an industrial strategy for life outside the EU.

On that basis GEO Careers should be of great interest to the government as it formulates its industrial strategy. The geospatial sector certainly holds the key to the upskilled future, as it leads the charge towards digitally enabled design and construction, BIM level 4 and smart asset management. But as well as attracting new skills from school, it also represents a massive opportunity to woo those beyond the classroom. Indeed, GEO Careers is a fantastic opportunity to tap into – and digitally upskill – the huge amount of UK talent currently underutilised and underperforming.

“Faster changes in technology mean we need to help more people retrain in new skills, so we will embed the concept of lifelong learning,” the government’s green paper adds, highlighting the increasing gap between UK productivity and that of our rivals in France Germany and the US.

The built environment sector is changing rapidly. Automated “artificial intelligent” design, off-site robotic manufacture and remote, wireless monitoring will see huge changes in professional roles. Only by being aware of these changes will professionals be able to position themselves for the future.

According to the government, the UK is ranked just 16th out of 20 OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries in terms of our technically qualified workforce. Yet, as the latest industrial strategy makes clear, for the UK economy to stand any chance of competing in a post-Brexit world, this situation must change.

With the right skills, the geospatial sector has a huge opportunity to transform the UK’s productivity and approach to infrastructure assets management. Initiatives such as GEO Careers will ensure the best talent is on hand to help it lead the world.


This article was written by independent editorial expert and journalist Antony Oliver, who regularly contributes industry content for GEObuzz. Find Antony on Twitter @_Antonyoliver_

GEO Business 2017, 23 – 24 May 2017, Business Design Centre, London UK

The geospatial event for everyone involved in the gathering, storing, processing and delivery of geospatial information. Incorporating an international trade exhibition, a cutting edge conference and a programme of live commercial workshops sessions, featuring the technology and services used by those working with spatial data.

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