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July 1, 2004
A professor of surveying calls on land surveyors to pass on the profession.

While talking with the president of the Kentucky Association of Professional Surveyors regarding the involvement of younger people in our industry, I realized that I was one of the youngest members of my chapter. I just turned 40, and I have been surveying for 22 years.

An online book by the National Academy of Sciences titled Science Education states, "In recent years we have seen a decline in the number of U.S. students who are interested and competent in technical subjects, an erosion of U.S. world leadership in many technology-based industries and a decrease in the technical literacy of our citizenry" (Science Education, http://www.nationalacademies.org/rise/chap1.htm). All you need for evidence of this trend in the surveying profession is a quick inventory of your chapter membership to see that this statement is true. I have participated in many meetings that discussed the changing of the educational requirements for land surveyors. As a surveying educator, I completely agree with this shift. The next challenge on our horizon is passing the profession on to successive generations. When pondering this challenge many questions come to mind. How do we get younger people involved? On what age should we focus? Is it my responsibility to take part?

Getting Younger People Involved

I was alarmed at the statements I heard while talking to a potential student's parents. Seeking to know what type of training and education their son would need to enter the profession, they had contacted their county surveyor for information. They were disheartened because this individual was not willing to provide any guidance. The parents felt that he was very territorial and did not want anyone moving into his area. I have heard similar stories before, as some surveyors seem to have the attitude that they are the omnipotent rulers of particular areas and no one has the right to compete with them. Would it not have been better for this surveyor to contribute to his profession by telling the potential student how to get the necessary training for this field? Could he not have offered to mentor the young person?

How can we expect to get young people involved with individuals such as this? The answer is to change the attitudes of such individuals; we professional surveyors are not in this alone. We are in direct competition with every industry today-the quicker we realize this the better. We must make the effort to visit schools and introduce students to careers as surveyors. We need to explain the history of surveying to them and show them the technologies we use. Most importantly, we need to demonstrate that they are the future of this long-respected art and science known as surveying. We can get young people involved by being involved ourselves.

I have been involved in post-secondary education for seven and a half years. It has been my observation on recruiting activities at secondary schools that most of the students in the junior and senior classes already have an inclination of what they want to become. On the chance that they do not have a field of study or career selected, then perhaps we can get them interested in surveying. I have also been a speaker at middle and elementary schools, and I am always amazed at the younger students' interest in my lectures and demonstrations. I am certainly not opposed to recruiting on the high school level; however, middle and elementary school students should not be overlooked as the starting point to secure the future of surveying.

Accepting the Responsibility of the Profession's Future

Considering this subject further, is it my responsibility to participate? I remember a story I heard from my pastor one Sunday. "There was a pastor of the local church. This church was in financial trouble, and he was very worried about how the church would survive. While discussing this with his wife, his son overheard his father's concerns. When Sunday morning arrived, the pastor's son was responsible for passing the collection plate. The congregation sang while the boy did his duty. The young lad noticed that his father put in five dollars. When he brought the plate back to his dad after passing it around the church, his father made the comment, 'That's not a lot is it?' and the son replied, 'Dad if you had put more in, then you would have gotten more out.'"

I would like every surveyor to ponder this statement: The more we contribute, the more we will benefit. Surveying has been very good to me and my family. I venture to say if you took inventory of your life, you would see that it has been good to you as well. It is easy to see that our responsibility is not to simply maintain the status quo, but to see that surveyors take the forefront as the boundary and topographic mapping specialists that we are.

I challenge you to visit your local elementary and middle schools. Take a total station with you and let the kids shoot a distance. Sit in on a math class and explain to the students how you incorporate trigonometry into your duties. There are many activities outside of school that we can be involved in as well. The Boy Scouts offer merit badges in Surveying and Orienteering in which we surveyors are the experts. Numerous doors could open for you and your company by becoming acquainted with these individuals. From my experiences, schools and outside organizations are delighted to involve local individuals and businesses.

Surveying and mapping: what a wonderful way to enjoy life! In my years as a surveyor, I have been to the top of some of the highest mountains in Kentucky and I have experienced the most breathtaking views. I have stories, acquaintances and experiences that I would not have known had it not been for surveying. I am sure you do as well. As professionals, we should want to help individuals on their own personal journeys into a career that is so rewarding.