Point of Beginning

Editor's Note

February 1, 2004
Surveyors on tape.

Imagine watching C-Span one day and seeing a surveyor representing the profession and discussing the value surveyors provide the public. How about hearing a radio spot about surveying on your drive to the jobsite? How about seeing land surveyors on a commercial between your favorite television show and the evening news?

This is the hope of Curt Sumner, LS, executive director for ACSM. And, he says, the national organization for the profession is in the midst of creating a promotion toward this end.

"It is intended to be used to recruit individuals into the surveying profession," Sumner reports. "The target audience will include students ranging from middle school to college. The parents and teachers of the students are part of the target audience as well since they exert some influence over decisions that the students will make."

I recommend that career counselors be added to the mix, since many of them may not know of this profession, and thus cannot recommend it to students looking for a career to match their math, science and technology skills and interests.

The promotional/educational effort is needed; the last video ACSM produced, titled "A Matter of Degrees," is more than 15 years old. A gem in its time, the 28-minute video introduced surveying, provided a history of the profession, and described the future of surveying and land information science.

Since then, however, the profession hasn't had a good tool for promotion, or a "prop" as Mark Husik, executive director for the New Jersey Society of Professional Land Surveyors (NJSPLS) and the Maryland Society of Surveyors, calls it. Husik says that the promotional medium is often an "easy out" in explaining land surveying to a given audience. Since a presenter often has but a few minutes to capture the interest of its audience, multimedia tools are good accompaniments.

"We've been kind of the video kings-or queens," Husik says. He's right; the state society developed two 12-minute videos a few years ago for $30,000 with the help of the New Jersey Network, the state's public television and radio community. The first video, "PLS: A Career Without Boundaries," was intended to be used for recruitment and as a training tool for members to take to board meetings and the like. The second video, "GIS: Mapping the Future," is primarly a teaching tool. The surveying video was replete with professional actors and scripts. Officers of NJSPLS acted as technical consultants, coaching the actors in putting on equipment properly and acting out surveying techniques.

Husik says other state societies have been invited to include their names at the end of the videos as sources of contact for more information. The cost is $500. Twenty six (26) state societies said yes to the offer and Husik continues to receive two or three calls on the videos each month. Canadian provinces are using them as well with alterations to the country's specific laws.

NJSPLS is also moving on to more promotional tools-that of continuing education tapes. The group recently finished three videos with industry experts including Walt Robillard and Knud Hermansen, complete with a manual and a series of questions. Viewers answer the questions and fax them into the NJSPLS office, where they are corrected; test-takers are then granted certificates.

My hope is that the ACSM effort will be as successful as that of NJSPLS. Sumner said the new ACSM marketing piece will include a heavy weight on licensure. This inclusion has helped to get folks at the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying, or NCEES, involved in funding for the project.

"They funded a similar one for the engineering profession a couple of years ago," Sumner says. "That one was intended to encourage graduate engineers to become licensed engineers. Since most who pursue surveying as a career are heading toward licensure anyway, the product we are working on will hopefully entice them to choose surveying for their studies and future career."

Promotional efforts of any kind often depend on visual aides in this day and age; let's hope the videos will help the profession be more widely known (and understood) and that recruitment rises.

"In general, our goal is to create as much positive exposure as we can, whatever form it takes," Sumner says.